If you engage with the news or media, you've likely been inundated with frightening messages about the quicker-than-expected spread of the coronavirus. Companies and schools abruptly closing, conferences and events cancelling, and widespread recommendations for quarantining at home can lead to a wide variety of thoughts and feelings, including but not limited to anxiety, fear, panic, loneliness, and overwhelm.
Know that if you are feeling any of these feelings, you are not alone.
It's important to remember that, though we are collectively hyper-focused on our physical health at this time, our mental health is equally important. We are processing an unprecedented event, together, which can cause higher than normal experiences of anxiety and existential depression. The conditions that will help contain the spread of coronavirus -- like isolating ourselves -- can lead to increased feelings of loneliness. It is very important that while you are absorbing this information, adjusting your commutes, and shifting your lifestyle, that you prioritize taking care of your mental health as a part of your everyday health routine.
Below are a few practices that I hope will lend support to you during this time:
Set aside 30 minutes per day to disengage from media (phones, social media, computers, text messaging) and breathe. Pay very specific attention to a particular part of your body -- perhaps your belly, or your nostrils, or your fingertips or toes. Focus on what that part of your body feels like. Focus on your breath. Set a timer so that you do not need to look at the clock, and just be for a moment. If you get distracted, that is totally normal. Just return to your breath and try again.
If you would like additional guidance, we have put together a few guided meditations to help bring some peace to your day.
You do not need to physically share space to connect with loved ones. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, who make you laugh, who help you take your mind off of things, even just for a little while. Set up Skype, phone, FaceTime, and text dates with your friends, family, and loved ones. Send puppy GIFs to your group chats (seriously!). These moments of joy and love will help reduce any turbulence you feel.
I am a big proponent of in-person therapy when possible. If you are able to continue to meet with your therapist in-person, fantastic. If you need to switch to phone or video for the coming weeks, do it. Maintaining your therapy, the flow of the sessions, and keeping up with the outlet you need to process all you're going through right now is critical. Many therapists will work with you by phone or video even if they do not ordinarily practice virtual therapy to accommodate for these extenuating circumstances. When in doubt, ask.
If you are working from home, or home-bound most of the day and evening, take a moment each day to walk around the block a few times. The sun, oxygen, and interactions with buildings/nature/people on the street will help refresh your mind and body.
If you are able to exercise, even better. The endorphins will keep up your health and your mood.
We want to keep your immune system strong. Sleep supports both your physical and your mental health, making it more important now than ever. Sometimes, stress and anxiety can interfere with your ability to sleep. If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, try setting up an evening routine that can help you wind down and decompress before you get into bed, setting up your mind and body for your transition into rest.
If you do nothing else, remind yourself that in your life, you have likely already survived worse than the coronavirus. You are strong, this will pass, and we are in this together.
The MyWellbeing team and I send you love and support this week. We got this.
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Alyssa Petersel, Co-Founder and CEO of My Wellbeing and author of Somehow I Am Different, graduated from Northwestern University in 2013 with dual BA degrees in psychology and international studies, graduated summa cum laude from New York University in May 2017 with her Master's in Social Work, and graduated from The Writer's Institute non-fiction program at CUNY Graduate Center in May 2017. A native New Yorker, Alyssa now lives in Brooklyn and enjoys running, coffee, community, and social justice.