Protecting Your Family’s Mental Health During COVID-19 Crisis
With all of the focus on physical health during the Corona Virus Pandemic, it’s easy to forget about our mental health. While we are focused on protecting our physical health by staying home, social distancing, and refraining from many of our usual activities, our mental health may suffer. The change in routine, social isolation, a sense of uncertainty, and increased stress may leave us feeling heightened anxiety, a sense of hopelessness or doom, agitated, frustrated, or a variety of other difficult emotions.
Here are 7 things you and your family can do to keep mentally healthy during this uncertain time.
- Exercise regularly — Whether it’s a YouTube exercise video or a walk around the neighborhood, physical activity does wonders for your mental health. It releases endorphins that help your mood improve. Exercise with your children. Since they aren’t getting “recess” right now, make sure they spend time outside every day to get their physical needs met.
- Practice mindfulness – The definition of mindfulness is to pay attention to the present moment, to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, without judgement. Mindfulness skills have been integrated into many therapy modalities and have been effective in improving a variety of mental health symptoms. There are many great apps for your smartphone that walk you through mindfulness practices. A quick search of Google and YouTube videos will help you find many free mindfulness exercises. Encourage your family to take time daily to be still and pay attention what is going on in their mind, body, and soul.
- Feel and label emotions — Just the act of labeling emotions helps to decrease their intensity. Allow yourself and your children to have the full range of emotions during this difficult time in our lives. There are 6 basic emotions that are a good place to start when identifying emotions: happy, mad, sad, scared, surprise, disgust. Ask your children where they feel their emotions in their body. You can have them describe each emotion or draw what they’re feeling in their body on paper.
- Stay social – Social distancing should really be called physical distancing. As humans, we need social interaction, even though we are keeping our distance for health precautions. Now is a great time to use technology to maximize social interaction during this time of isolation. Use FaceTime or Skype so you see the other person’s expressions and you can bridge the distance better than just texting or messaging on social media
- Keep a routine – As much as possible, keep a routine. Get up and go to be at the same time each day. Eat meals together as a family, have at-home school time, work time, etc. Routine adds predictability to an unpredictable time in our lives and gives children some scaffolding for their day.
- Practice self-care – For many families, parents are working from home while trying to manage children at home. It’s a feat for even the most organized and efficient parents. Because this is such a stressful time, try to carve out time each day to do something you want to do – something to take care of you. It might be a bubble bath, 15 mins. of reading your favorite book or taking a few minutes to FaceTime a friend.
- Get professional help — If or your family member are having difficulty sleeping, eating, changes in mood, changes in behavior, or anything that’s impacting daily functioning, call and get professional help from a licensed therapist. Most therapists are offering virtual therapy through HIPAA compliant video conferencing platforms during this pandemic. A quick Google search for therapists in your area will give you a good place to start. Or find a therapist by asking for recommendations from your Doctor, family, or friends.
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.