Given the recent health recommendations from the CDC in the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), it can be a difficult time for those already having difficulty managing mental health symptoms. Many are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, nervous, fearful and many more symptoms, which depending on severity and method of coping, can be debilitating.
Some may have been suffering from seasonal depression and were looking forward to their minds feeling a little lighter and joyful this Spring, but are now unable to do so. Others may have been doing well managing their worry thoughts about everyday life, but now they are back to being uncontrollable and interfering with daily life.
Although most of us can logically understand the benefits of “flattening the curve”, our survival part of our brain and our mental health conditions do not function off that same logic. That is, until we teach them to.
Your see, our minds do what they know how to do, carve out pathways for how to respond in similar situations, without giving us the rational context for that reaction. We will continue to “drive down the same road” in our mind every time we are confronted with a situation that makes us feel resented, because that’s what our brain does best. However, we are not forced to succumb to this process, we are in control, we have NEUROPLASTICITY! This means our brains can be re-trained to carve out a new pathway for responding to situations that do not encourage the fear response.
I know this can be an overwhelming topic, so we will talk more about Neuroplasticity and changing your thinking a little later. I wanted you to at least have a basic understanding to why your brain may be responding with significant symptoms right now.
Okay, got it, but what are some real action steps I can take now to manage my symptoms?
Take it ONE MOMENT AT A TIME. You see, we can get so caught up in tonight, tomorrow, next week, that we lose so many precious moments. Take time today and everyday during this stressful time to just notice how you feel in the moment. Are you shoulders raised up tight? Is your jaw clenched? Relax those muscles, focus on your breathing and center yourself to be prepared for each next moment that comes.
Write down your stressors/worries/problems in a JOURNAL. I know, here’s another mental health professional recommending journaling, but there is a reason why we all do! Research shows the psychological benefits of getting a worry out of your head and down onto paper. Then, it is a tangible task to address through problem solving, asking for help, etc. When the thought is trapped in your head, it’s a constant worry to worry about without ever coming to a solution.
Remind yourself what is important to you, and do THAT. What do you value? What are you grateful for? What hobbies have you been neglecting? What family have you not made time for? The universe is saying, “this is your chance to reconnect!” So call your mom, engage with your model cars, finish that puzzle, organize your closet.. do all the things you’ve been wanting to but “didn’t have time” for.
I truly could go on giving you many more realistic action steps for managing your mental health symptoms during this chaotic time, but I don’t want to give you anymore INFORMATION OVERLOAD. Stay tuned for more information about these topics and more and keep yourself and your family healthy.