The rapid spread of the coronavirus, especially in our area of Westchester, NY, has brought the topic of mental health to the forefront. If you already have been struggling with anxiety in the past, then the sudden change in our day-to-day routines may have kicked your anxiety into high gear.
Anxiety can quite often come from feeling like you’re not in control. But let’s be honest, there‘s some rationale to that. There are a lot of things in life that aren’t in our control. To help alleviate your anxiety, shift the focus to things in your life that you can control.
Here are some quick tips to help you stay focused and feeling in control during the coronavirus outbreak.
1. Wake up at the same time every day
Most of us are now working from home so our daily schedules have changed dramatically.
Human beings thrive on structure. Morning routines are one of the best secrets behind success. Our brains are trainable, so over time, your brain will begin to wake up at the same time every day. You'll wake up and feel ready to get your day started. Productivity can drastically increase the level of anxiety you may be feeling.
Waking up at the same time every day also helps you sleep better at night. Getting a good night's sleep can do wonders for anxiety.
2. Make your bed
This sounds silly, but hear me out. Making your bed is an easy, fast task that you can quickly accomplish, which can help you to feel productive. Getting started in the "task mentality" can help get your mind ready for productivity mode.
Plus, let's face it, if your bed is made, you're less likely to want to crawl back into it later on in the day. This helps you stick to your new home routine if you're feeling trapped in the house because of the coronavirus.
3. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful emotion and can help cultivate happiness. If you're stuck indoors, you may be feeling anxious or depressed due to the lack of social interaction with others. Or maybe you're anxiety is better because social situations freak you out! (I think some introverts are probably loving this sudden change!) If that's the case, it's easy to feel grateful about social distancing!
Try to find the positives during this situation. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can drastically improve anxiety. Our thoughts have a direct effect on how we feel, so try to think of the things you're grateful for during this outbreak. It'll put you in a better mental space. Maybe you have more time to cook, or have more time to spend with your children or significant other.
4. Make a To-Do List
Getting shit done helps you feel accomplished, which lowers anxiety and depression. If you have always said that you do not have time for that long wish list, then there's no time like the present.
Write it down! Seeing something visually in front of you can help you stay focused and give you ideas of what to do when you're feeling anxious, depressed or bored at home.
Read that book that's been on your nightstand forever. Clean out your closet and pack up those clothes that you've always wanted to donate.
"Not having enough time" is the most common excuses I hear when I teach meditation. Well, now we've all been given the gift of time, so there goes that excuse. We could all stand to learn a little stillness with the pace we all run at, anyway.
Meditation is one of the best ways to improve your anxiety. When you meditate, you learn how to practice acceptance, which can have a huge positive impact on your ability to regulate your emotions. Research proves that mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, can actually rewire our brain in ways that affect our thoughts and behavior.
6. Call a Therapist
There is an upside to all of this coronavirus craziness. Mental health is finally getting recognized more and more as important aspect of your health that needs attention. Governor Cuomo just recently called for Mental Health Therapists to volunteer their time to anyone who may need additional mental health support through New York State, so be on the lookout for those services if you qualify! Myself and many of my colleagues in Westchester have already signed up!
Therapists are still working, many of us by telehealth, so we're still available for anyone who needs support. Telehealth is an easy, secure way to connect with a therapist to work on anxiety, depression, or any other emotion that may be getting kicked up by the COVID-19 outbreak.
There's plenty of ways to help take care of your mental health through this very scary time. You don't have to go through this alone, we're all in this together.
About the Author
Dana Carretta-Stein is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and founder of Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, in Scarsdale, NY & Carretta Consulting. She is an expert in PTSD, trauma and anxiety. Dana is a certified EMDR therapist and consultant, in which she provides additional training and consultation to EMDR Therapists. She is also a private practice consultant in Westchester, NY.