Taking Care of You And Others - Maintaining Strong Mental Health During The Pandemic.

| Valeria Stoyanova

Amidst the unprecedented health crisis we are currently facing, being exposed to a new reality on a daily basis, fueled by constant news via traditional and social media coverage, the feel of constant change, rising unemployment rates, and the economic uncertainty the future holds, we cannot allow another day go by without recognizing all those effects on our mental health and well-being.


Dealing with all the recent changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic we are left feeling isolated, anxious and fearful, and it is becoming the new truth for many; hitting closer to home and those around us, even ourselves. An increasing number of reports reveal the staggering growth in cases of individuals suffering from fear, depression, substance abuse and even suicide. We must use this time as an opportunity to raise awareness with our families and our communities, even ourselves in order to reduce the stigma that is often associated with mental health.

I personally have found myself being in a dual role. On one hand, going through the motions and at times feeling overwhelmed by media, I catch myself becoming more distant from close friends, family and coworkers with whom I used to be surrounded by daily. I realize I have been extremely lucky to have an opportunity to work from the safety of my home during this time, to continue to be productive and contribute to my organization (Concordance Healthcare Solutions) and servicing our customers. And even in moments of gratitude, we find it difficult to escape the nagging thoughts, for example, how I will be able to adapt going back to the office… Questioning if people (including myself) would be healthy enough to be around each other…or how to ease into projects that were temporarily on hold during coronavirus… In the grand scheme of things, this is nothing in comparison with the struggles others often face.

On the other, I have experienced being the support person for a close friend struggling with depression and anxiety. Very recently, just in the last few weeks I discovered the dark world of mental illness and how taxing it can be on the person suffering from it, as well as those around them. In addition to pre-existing conditions, quarantine has enabled the surfacing of a whole other set of emotions and feelings for my friend, such as that of loneliness and abandonment, emotional distancing and disconnect, experiencing loss and grief for events or circumstances that can be either hypothetical or forthcoming, substance abuse, even thoughts of suicide.

I also wanted to share some of the practices that can sometimes be so minor but have made a great impact on my own outlook and daily life in quarantine. Interestingly, some of them can be quite simple, even intuitive - hope you also find value incorporating them in your everyday life:

  1. Surround yourself with little things that bring you joy – astatic has always brought me a sense of comfort and inner-peace and so, one example of that is my love of having a bouquet of freshly cut flowers on my kitchen table. Since this is my new office space, every couple of days, I have made it a point to start my morning by bringing in a handful of spring flowers from my garden –daffodils, tulips, lilac. Or, creating a calm and therapeutic environment by adding to the ambiance is running a diffuser with my favorite essential oils during the work day does wonders for me. It is the little pleasures that set you up for a positive mindset!
  2. Working in a clutter-free space is crucial for my productivity, even if it means doing all the clean-up work late at night. Kicking off the day with neatly stacked work-pile, ensuring no housework is awaiting me first thing in the morning.
  3. Adhering to a routine – following a daily regimen and schedule has helped me stay consistent, motivated and further easing my angst with having stability and managing my own expectations.
  4. Plan a self-care routine often – journaling; beauty/skin care; having a creative outlet; introspective moments – taking time to really recognize and asses my feelings and methods I have taken in managing those emotions.
  5. Spend time outside – it is easy to get caught up doing chores back to back at home, or having too much screen time, binge watching Netflix or working a regular shift from your home and realizing you have been in the same spot for hours – we have all been there. Making it a habit to spend time outside has been crucial for my well-being and staying positive. Weather permitting, I would have my morning cup of coffee outside, enjoying the crisp air; take conference calls on my balcony or even take the dog for a 10-minute walk mid-day.
  6. Dedicating time for others – now more than ever, it is vital that we reach out and stay connected with our community, colleagues and family - we have seen it in so many instances people being kinder and more compassionate towards one-another. Acts of kindness are happening every day and I personally wanted to contribute to helping others, even in the smallest ways – I love cooking, so over the weekend, I dedicated some time to making bread and delivering it to friends. Someone surprised me with a book in the mail, on a topic we had previously conversed about and I am very passionate about. Something so small yet so meaningful to all is making the time and effort to check on someone and really ask them how they are doing; probe and seek deep, meaningful and genuine conversation – during a difficult times like these is when you may learn most about people and create stronger bonds.

To learn more, check out the podcast links below – all dedicated to providing us with insight to the various symptoms and conditions we all experience differently but still affect our emotional, spiritual and mental wellness. I encourage you to utilize any of these tips to help spread positive messages of hope, empathy, mental health care and prevention.

Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Beth Rush, a Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist, shares ideas for taking care of your mental health and finding comfort amid the uncertainty: https://blubrry.com/mayoclinicqa/57556639/mental-health-and-coping-during-covid-19-crisis

Speaking of Psychology: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19 with Lynn Bufka, PhD: https://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/covid-19-mental-health

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love: Coping during Coronavirus: https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5hZGtuaXQuY29tL2FwcC1zZWFyY2gvY25uL2JlaW5nLWJvc3Mtd2l0aC1wb3BweS1oYXJsb3cvYWxsLzEwODAvMjAwLw&episode=YWIyMzZmZDEyYjRiMGY2NzMzMTc5M2NjYzAzYTg4MGEubXAz