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A guide to maintaining mental wellness in the time of COVID-19

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From the Holladay Health Corner

By Maureen Johnson, HR Director (South Bend, IN); and Dr. Stacy Cutrono, Wellness Coach at Ultimate Software

The tips below are only suggestions (some you may have already put in place) on what we can do to help us stay mentally strong as we navigate through some major changes we are experiencing because of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Establish a New Normal

Some of you may be by yourself and having to work from home. Others may have to work from home with other family members in the house, including children and pets. Instead of your home being a “sanctuary”, it could now be a home office for you (and spouse/partner), a home school, a daycare or a combination of all three. What can we do to ease into this transition?

  1. Stick to a schedule. Make a plan/goals for you (and family, if applicable) for each day.
  2. Start and end your day as if you were at work. Adjustments will need to be made if you are also homeschooling. With parents being home, children and pets probably think it’s play day all day long! But, working from home should resemble your normal schedule as much as possible. A side note for all those now E-Learning Teachers (i.e. parents): Have some self-compassion as you go through this journey. Do the best you can! Maybe when the children are back at school, give that teacher a really nice gift!
  3. Dress the part. It may be tempting to go to your home office two minutes away in your pajamas, but change into something that would help you have a mindset to work.
  4. Carve out a unique space for work/school. Use that space for only work or school. Parts of your home still should be a reflection of that “sanctuary” we use to get away from work and school.
  5. Keep your goals alive. When we are thrown off track, as we are know, it is easy to give up on goals that we have set in place, such as eating better or staying physically active. Don’t give up on what you have set up as a priority.
  6. Seek input from the house. Include loved ones in your home on certain decisions that affect them to help keep peace in the house.

Stay Connected

  1. Foster your relationships. Schedule time to talk with family, especially our children. Text, call, video chat with family and friends. Surprise your work associates and call them, not to give them more work, but just to check in on them to see how they are doing. They will appreciate it.
  2. Use technology. Most of us are already taking advantage of video conferencing. There is nothing like having face-to-face meetings and video conferencing is the next best thing, even on a bad hair day. A side note — when scheduling meetings, try not to do back-to-back meetings unless you take really good notes. We find that it is good to have time to review the information at the end of a meeting before going to the next so you won’t have to take time out later, trying to remember what was accomplished in a meeting you had three hours ago.
  3. Slow down. Start and finish that “Honey Do List”. Start a new hobby.
  4. Provide service to others. There are still ways to support others at this time while still being able to social distance. With unemployment rate at their current levels, Food Banks could use more food and volunteers. Checking on our seniors, who may be feeling even more isolated, and would welcome a phone call or cards. Check around your community for ways to help out, while still being able to stay safe.

Prioritize Your Health

The list below is nothing new, but good reminders of what we should be doing in this COVID-19 climate to be physically fit.

  1. Wash your hands frequently (soap and water 20 second rule or use hand sanitizer).
  2. Follow the health guidelines regarding COVID-19 from your local health department or by the CDC.
  3. Be active. While it is tempting to spend a little more time on the couch or in your favorite chair, binge watching Tiger King or some other show, move at least 30 minutes a day. Schedule this time for some type of activity each day.
  4. During the time you are working, take breaks. Go out for recess and play for a few minutes. Get outside and take your family (spouse/partner, children and pets) with you!
  5. Get quality sleep. Turn off all electronics an hour and half before going to bed to help turn off your brain.
  6. Eat healthy. Meal planning goes a long way in making healthy choices and now we have more time to do this.
  7. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Check online sources to see how much water you should be drinking. Our bodies work their best when they are well hydrated.
  8. Stay away from vices. Being socially isolated, it is easy to get bored or frustrated and there is a good possibility to fall back into habits that are not healthy for us but in our mind we think may help us feel better, such as overeating, drinking a little too much, online shopping, binge watching — pick your poison. Take a moment and stop before making these choices. Or phone a friend or reach out to some of our mental health resources we have available. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.

Ease Your Stress

It is important because we are socially isolated and balancing these new challenges that we check in on ourselves emotionally. As we have had to adjust to these changes almost immediately, there was little time to prepare for working at home. It is very common that our emotions could resemble those of going through a grief process. Watch out for these warning signs:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleep issues — too much or too little
  • Eating issues — too much or too little
  • Digestive issues
  • Irritability — not being able to bounce back like you used to
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Easily tearful
  • Keyed up/restless
  • Feeling numb — just being in survival mode

This is the time to be more patient with ourselves and each other. What can we do?

  1. Focus on the positive.
    1. Limit time watching or reading “all things COVID19”. You can still stay up on information by watching your local news in the morning and then tuning back in to watch the national news. Any late breaking news will interrupt regular scheduled programming.
    2. Laugh each day. Find a video or a friend (keeping that social distancing) that makes you laugh. Remember “laughter is the best medicine”.
    3. Do something each day that brings you joy.
  2. Give voice to your emotions. We know this is hard for some of us to do, but especially during this time, we need help sorting things out. Take a moment to address your fears and concerns. Talk to someone, a professional if necessary. Now is not the time to say quiet. Over-communicate to make sure you are reaching out to others to let them know how you are feeling.
  3. Create space for yourself. Take up the practice of yoga, meditation, prayer. Learn some deep breathing exercises. Start a journal as there is power in the written word and it is a way to be an eyewitness to this historic event. Schedule “me” time, even if you are in a house by yourself. It probably is even more important when you have a house full to find time for yourself, as well as the rest of your family. Find time to get alone to refresh yourself, even if for five minutes. 

We hope these suggestions have been of some service to you. Stay safe, take this journey one day at a time, be kind to yourselves and each other and ask for help anytime you need it!

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