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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

7 Mental Health Tips on Coping With COVID

7 Mental Health Tips on Coping With COVID

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all in many different ways—physically, emotionally, economically, socially, and psychologically. We are all dealing with the challenges brought by this virus, including possible illness and the obstacles and interruptions to our normal way of life.

When we are faced with a crisis of any kind, fear and anxiety are inevitable. These are normal and natural responses to challenging situations that are infused with danger and uncertainty.

It’s so easy to get lost in worrying and obsessing about all kinds of things that are out of our control right now, like what might happen in the future and how the virus might affect us, our loved ones, community, country, and the world. While it’s completely natural for us to get lost in such worries, it’s not useful or helpful. The more we focus on what’s not in our control, the more hopeless or anxious we might feel.

Mental health is not something somebody else struggles with. It is something we all struggle with at some point in our lives—and during this pandemic, the number of people experiencing mental health issues and distress has understandably risen.

Stress, worry, and anxiety can be very crippling things to struggle with regularly—and even more so during the challenges created by a pandemic. This can make it hard to focus our minds and bodies away from worry, but there are some practical ways that you can try to manage your mental health.

In this article, I will cover mental health tips on coping with the pandemic.

1. Focus on What You Can Control

To start with one of the most useful things anyone can do in any type of crisis—Covid-related or otherwise—is to focus on what’s in your control. We can’t control what happens in the future. We can’t control the virus itself, the world economy, or how our governments manage the situation. But we can control what we do—here and now, and that really matters because what we do—here and now—can make a huge difference to us and those around us.

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Focusing on what we can control will help us maintain our well-being during periods of self-isolation, quarantine, or lockdown.

2. Deal With Negative Thoughts and Feelings

My second mental health tip is to notice and acknowledge the uncertainty within a thought/feeling as it comes to your mind, pause, and breathe. Tell yourself that this is just anxiety talking—it is just a thought, and thoughts are not statements of fact. You don’t need to believe everything you think.

This thought/feeling will pass, and you don’t have to respond to it or do anything about it. You can try to imagine the thought/feeling floating away in a bubble or cloud.

3. Mindful Relaxation

Mindfulness is about taking a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment, including your thoughts, feelings, bodily state, and sensation while encouraging openness, curiosity, and acceptance.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Here is one very simple method you can try:

Explore and connect with the present moment. Notice your breathing, count your breath slowly, and the sensations of breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to count up to 20 slow deep breaths. The goal is to calm the mind by using the five senses to focus on the environment instead of troubling thoughts.

The key to embodying mindfulness is to turn into a keen observer. Using all five of your senses, look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what smells you notice—become fully absorbed in the experience of your senses. You can also set a timer for a few minutes, close your eyes, and work through trying to do this exercise using all your senses by visualizing a place you have visited, like a favorite holiday.

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4. Dealing With Anxiety

Anxiety and stress present a threat to us and at the same time, they make us underestimate our ability to cope with the stress of that threat. Of course, it can be extremely difficult to envision coping during a pandemic, but you have to remember that you are coping and that you will cope.

Here’s one way you can challenge threat and connect with your ability to cope: visualize coping. Start by getting into a comfortable position. Take some deep breaths in through your nose for a slow count of 5, holding your breath for a few counts, before breathing out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this a few times.

Then, recall a situation that you dealt with that was stressful or difficult for you, think about what it was, how you felt at the time, the kinds of things you might have told yourself, and whether you’d cope or not. Then, recount in as much detail as you can what you did to cope with and manage that problem, how it turned out, and how you then felt.

Pay important attention to how you might have predicted a catastrophe at the time—and how it didn’t end up being as bad as you thought it would be.

5. Take Care of Your Emotions

Another important mental health tip is to take care of your emotions. It’s impossible to have a life without some uncomfortable feelings. Negative emotions are a normal and helpful part of life. No emotion is without purpose, and they are a source of information for us.

It seems like a nice idea to try and get rid of negative feelings and replace them with positive ones. It might make sense because who wants to feel unhappy or have to deal with unpleasant feelings, right?

However, suppressing your emotions is not helpful—understanding them, processing them, and regulating them is. This is what enables you to calm and soothe yourself.

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Acceptance

Accept the emotions you are experiencing, know that they are there for a reason, allow them to be present so you can work with them. Remember that discomfort is a normal part of life.

Identify and label the emotion you are experiencing by saying “I am angry,” “I am overwhelmed,” “I am very anxious,” and “it’s because of (what has made you feel this way?).”

Recognize that the emotions you have right now are temporary. Emotions arise and fade, which can be hard to remember when they are very intense.

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Ask yourself, “what do I really need right now?” “What does this emotion want/need to help it?” “What can I do to nurture it/myself?” Do you need some helpful distraction, some alone time, some time in nature, or to talk to a friend?

Think about what would help you. What would be a compassionate response and what would be critical? And which one will help you work through this best?

6. Look for Balance

When we are struggling with our mental health, everything can seem negative. During a pandemic, many negative things are happening, and it’s hard not to get lost in a sea of negativity.

People tell us to try and be positive, but being positive is not easy. Many people tell us to just think positive—to just replace negativity with positivity. If only it was that easy, right?

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Forcing this kind of positivity is unhelpful, let alone unachievable. Forcing positivity can also make you feel like even more of a failure by making you think that you really should be able to just be positive, and when you can’t, you become self-critical of that as well.

Instead of trying or forcing positivity, look for a balance. Deal with the negatives you experience, but also recognize the positives.

Recognize the good things if and when you can and as much as you can. But don’t try to force yourself to be positive when you feel the complete opposite.

Remember that nobody feels positive all the time—and that is ok. Emotions of all kinds are normal, and that’s what being human is about.

7. Engage

The last mental health tip is about engaging ourselves. Try to focus your attention on something meaningful, on what you need to do, on what you were doing, or do something else that you want to do. This is about becoming immersed in something that feels worthwhile and applying your strengths in the pursuit of this goal.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you become more engaged in this kind of behavior:

  • What absorbs me? What can really take my mind off things?
  • What are my strengths, and how can I use them today?
  • What healthy or positive experiences can I spend my time on now?
  • What do I see as my purpose, and how can I pursue this purpose today?
  • What things can I do today that will give me a sense of achievement?
  • What things have I been wanting to do that I couldn’t because life was so busy? Can I do them now?
  • Can I spend some time thinking about my past and future from an optimistic perspective?
  • What’s going well for me at present?
  • What positive/healthy experiences can I plan to do today (e.g. reading, music, food, games, exercise, mediation, learning, gardening, etc.)?
  • What do I feel grateful for today?
  • What small act of kindness can I do for someone else today?
  • Who or what inspires me?
  • How can I achieve a moment of calm, and what activities or tasks can help me with this?
  • What experience, food, or drink can I savor today?
  • What gives me enjoyment?
  • Who can I connect with today (in reality, over the telephone, online)?

Final Thoughts

Living the same way before the pandemic is difficult, if not impossible. However, that shouldn’t deter us from living our lives to the fullest and maintaining positivity. These mental health tips are a good start to help you cope with the stress brought by the pandemic.

More Mental Health Tips

Featured photo credit: Fernando @cferdo via unsplash.com

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Dr. Kirren Schnack

Dr. Kirren Schnack is an experienced clinical psychologist.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

You may be wondering how to clear your mind. Maybe you are facing a tough presentation at work and really need to focus, or perhaps you’ve got a lot going on at home and just need to relax for a few minutes. Whatever the reason, having a clear mind can help you find your center.

The only problem is that you can’t completely erase the thousands of thoughts you have each day. The goal is to be able to observe those thoughts without engaging with each one of them.

The good news is that clearing your mind and returning to the present moment comes from a simple act of acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed in the first place. A path to better mental health and overall quality of life starts here.

What Happens When You’re Not Present?

We’ve evolved to keep looking and working towards a future goal. The very nature of our careers is to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future. Our thoughts and, therefore, our habits and actions consistently point in the forward-moving direction, whether it’s in your relationship, career, or goals.

The point at which this becomes harmful is when we become too stuck in this forward motion and can’t reduce stress in the short or long-term. The result of this is burnout.[1] It’s a term that is most often used in the workplace, but burnout can happen in any area of our life where you feel like you’re pushing too hard and too fast.

The idea here is that you’re so engrossed in the forward movement that you take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because you have this sense that you must keep working.

On a physical plane, the body takes a real hit with burnout. You feel more muscle fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, anxiety, poor metabolism, and so much more.

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These symptoms are the body’s way of throwing you red flags and warning you that you must slow down. But because your mind is so preoccupied with this forward momentum, it disconnects you from listening to your body’s signals. The only time you really hear them is when the signals are too loud to ignore, such as during serious illness or pain.

As we can see, not being present is something that snowballs over time. Eventually, it can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical ailments. 

To help you deal with this, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment to see where you may be off balance. Then, you can check out the points below to keep moving in the right direction.

How Do We Come Back to the Present?

Answering this question will answer the question of how to clear your mind because they go hand in hand. There are many tools you can use to begin a mindfulness practice.

To reiterate, mindfulness is simply defined as the act or practice of being fully present.[2] Tools that allow you to step into this practice include meditation, journaling, a body-centered movement practice such as Qigong, or simple breathing exercises.

Underneath it all, however, is one technique that acts as a universal connector, and that is acknowledgment. This term may not sound like a technique, but its power truly flourishes when put into practice.

For us to come back to the present moment, we have to acknowledge that we have trailed off into the past or the future. Likewise, for us to clear our mind, we have to acknowledge that our mind is overwhelmed, distracted, or scattered.

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This simple act of pausing and catching ourselves in the moment is how we can build our acknowledgment practice. So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at work with mental to-do lists, pause. Acknowledge your state of mind and say to yourself that you’re overwhelmed. This sends a signal to your whole being that you’re aware of what’s going on.

It cuts the cords of illusion, denial, and ignorance. You are now building your awareness of yourself, which is an incredibly potent gift.

How to Clear Your Mind

Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are and how you feel, you can take action and learn ways to clear your mind. You can take a few moments away from your desk or to-do list, and practice something to ground yourself back into the present moment.

1. Take a Walk

Grounding yourself can be as simple as taking a walk and admiring the changing of the leaves. This practice is also known as “forest bathing,” and it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in a forest. It can be in your favorite park or even walking around your town or neighborhood.

Bring your attention to the senses as you enjoy your walk. Can you tune in to the sounds of your footsteps on the earth? Can you notice the smells and take in the sights around you while staying present in the moment? Can you touch a leaf or the bark of a tree and allow the texture to teach you something new?

Such a practice does wonders in clearing your mind and bringing you back to the now. It also connects you more deeply to your environment.

2. Box Breathing

As you’re learning how to clear your mind, a mind-clearing practice may look like sitting down and going through a nourishing meditation or breath practice. Breathing is, honestly, the easiest and best way to clear your mind. Even taking a few deep breaths in and out and feeling and noticing the breath will bring you right back to the present moment.[3]

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In yoga, we call this breath Same Vrti, meaning a 1:1 breath ratio. It can also be translated as “box breathing.” The idea is to make the length of your inhales and exhales the same, as this allows you to take in more oxygen and slow down the chatter of the monkey mind. It also kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, offering many health benefits in the long run.

This will allow your heart rate to slow down so that you can reduce any anxiety you may be feeling. It also aids in digestion, as the metabolism is back on track, and helps you physically process food and drink properly.

3. Add Meditation

how to meditate and clear your mind is also helpful when you want to clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. In fact, following your breath is a meditation in itself. Adding a visual, like imagining gentle ripples on a lake or clouds passing along a beautiful blue sky, can give the mind something to attach to without running through the train of your thoughts.

On the other hand, if you are mentally overwhelmed and meditation sounds like more stress, tuning in to a guided meditation session can be alleviating. It often helps to hear the voice of a teacher or guide who can walk you into more peace and contentment with their words and energy. If you can’t find such a guide in a local studio, turn to the many meditation apps on your phone, or YouTube.

4. Write Your Thoughts

Alternatively, another powerful practice for when you’re learning how to clear your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the thoughts in your head. We call this a “brain dump,” and it is an effective method for simply releasing your thoughts so that you can mentally breathe and process things better.

Grab a piece of paper and write out all of the thoughts that are pressing for your attention. The idea is not to analyze the thoughts or fix them, but to give those thoughts an exit so that you can move on with your day without fixating on them aggressively. This can look like a laundry list of thoughts, or a diary entry.

Afterward, feel free to close your journal or rip up the paper as part of your stress management. You don’t need to hold on to what you wrote, but it does help to see the expression of what you’re holding on to mentally. Likewise, this practice is very potent to do at night before bedtime. So many of us struggle to sleep soundly with many thoughts bouncing back and forth, and this exercise before bed can allow us to enter a deeper level of rest.

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Regardless of what you do, understand that practicing mindfulness is a lifelong process. With life’s ups and downs, it’s stressful to attach yourself to the practice of being mindful and in the present moment because it’s never guaranteed that you will be present for 100% of your life.

In this practice, what matters more than anything is intention. Our intention of staying present and sticking to our mindfulness practice is what will encourage us to keep coming back to it, even when we forget.

Final Thoughts

With the thousands of thoughts that we have in our head each day, it can sound overwhelming to even tackle this and try to learn how to clear your mind. The technique, however, is powerful, simple, and effective.

It all comes down to first recognizing and acknowledging that we are overwhelmed, stressed, or far away from the present moment. That acknowledgment acts as a wake-up alarm, inviting us to examine our state of mind and take action.

In this way, not only are we clearing our minds in a manner that works for us, but we’re also building our self-awareness, which is a beautiful and powerful way of being in the world.

More Tips on How to Clear Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Elijah Hiett via unsplash.com

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