How I support my mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
Staying at home and social distancing is difficult for many people so it’s important to focus on looking after yourself
Written by Aimee Austin
Voices - Advice
Young people share advice based on their experiences.
Dealing with mental health issues is hard at the best of times, never mind when you’re living through the world changing event that is the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic. This has been tough on me. I won’t pretend I haven’t been struggling these past few weeks but I’m surviving. In light of that though I thought I’d share a few things that have been helping me. Getting by is all I’m looking for at the moment, and I suppose I just wanted to share how exactly I’m doing that.
Listening to my emotions
The first thing I discovered about having to stay at home all the time is that it’s terrible. Everyday is a completely new roller coaster of emotions. I switch between them like it’s an Olympic sport. I spent the first week or so trying to keep my emotions under control, but I’ve realised in a time like this you have to let yourself feel what you need to feel. Especially for those of us who struggle with that normally. Sit with however you’re feeling and let yourself feel it fully and unapologetically. I’ve had more bouts of sobbing during this than I’d care to admit but I’ve found it helps. I think it’s important to try not to push feelings of sadness and loneliness away because eventually you’ll crack in a big way. It sounds odd to say I’ve cried multiple times a day most days but it’s far better than letting it stew and pretending I don’t feel that way. Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel.
No pressure to be productive
Secondly you do not, and I repeat, do not have to use this time productively in my opinion. Getting by in normal circumstances is difficult enough sometimes but when you’re separated from loved ones and have a lot of time to yourself you can feel guilty for not being productive. What I think we need to focus on right now is getting by and that is more than enough. If you are looking after yourself in any form, then that is enough. Sure, being productive is great but no one should feel like they have to be. We are living through stressful times and the last thing anyone needs is the expectation to get things done shoved down their throats.
Looking after our mental health
This also does not have to be a time to work on your mental health. Being alone and bored has made mine deteriorate quite badly. I’m someone who loves to be around other people and without that my mental state is suffering. This does not have to be a time of self-betterment. Look after yourself first, everything else can wait. Take this time to rest.
For example, I think it’s okay to sleep more if that’s what you need to get through some days. Is this the healthiest thing? Maybe not and I don’t recommend doing it every day. As I said though it’s harder than ever for a lot of people and if you need to shut the world out for a while and sleep then that is perfectly okay. Nothing is more tiring than being under pressure and feeling stressed, so I think you don’t have to feel guilty for excessive sleeping.
Reaching out for support
Remember to ask for help if you need it. Whether it’s talking to a professional or just letting your friend know that you’re having a hard time. If you’re struggling with college, reach out to your lecturers and let them know. It seems scary but I did it and they reassured me so much. You won’t be judged. We are all struggling. You do not need to feel guilty for seeking help because you feel like other people have it worse. Everyone is going through different things right now but that does not diminish your struggles. Everyone has a right to be helped and supported especially during a time like this. Reach out and try not to distance yourself from people emotionally right now. Even if it’s a text or a phone call it could make the world of a difference to how you feel.
The general message I suppose I’m trying to put across is whatever you need to do to support your mental health and look after yourself during this, that’s what you need to do. Whether that’s taking up new hobbies or binge watching and sleeping, video calling everyone all day or taking time to yourself. It’s okay to deal with this in whatever way you need.