There has been so much focus on the physical side of COVID-19 and how to keep yourself safe and healthy, but I have not seen much in the way of mental health during COVID-19 which I find strange and concerning.
As someone that has had plenty of mental health challenges in my life I really feel that this is a subject that needs to be spoken about so I invited my friend, Freddie van Rensburg, to join me live on my Facebook page last week to discuss the mental health issues that many of us are facing, as well as tips for coping during this pandemic.
Freddie and I go back 10 years when I was working in a drug rehabilitation center (after getting clean myself) and Freddie was a client there. After leaving rehab he studied to be a counsellor and has published recovery workbooks, as well as publishing regular spirituality podcasts called Meet Me In The Field.
On a personal note I have found myself struggling in a very big way. I found myself in a dissociated state for two to three weeks from the time Ramaphosa announced that the schools must close. I could barely function.
I’m grateful for all the tools that I was taught while in rehab, yes this is not about addiction, but so many of the coping tools I was taught apply to how I have managed to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
My work took a knock because firstly not many businesses are advertising right now since so many businesses are closed, but also because even though so little work was coming in I have been barely able to cope with that work. This is partly due to the fact that I have been struggling with my mental health, but also having my kids at home and having to keep up with their school work that is being sent home.
Thankfully the fog has started lifting for me and I’m starting to adjust to the new way of life that I have found myself in, and I wanted to share with you my thoughts around mental health during COVID-19.
Accept Your Feelings
We are all going through so much loss and trauma at this time. We may be feeling guilty, sad, angry or scared. We may have completely conflicting feelings which can be confusing and frustrating. This is all fine.
It is so important to acknowledge and accept our feelings no matter what they are.
Be Kind To Yourself
It is so easy to be hard on ourselves, especially when things are already hard and we are struggling. We are not going to be able to continue with our lives as before and we will need time to adjust. This is not easy and we will need to be patient and kind to ourselves.
A little bit of self-care goes a long way.
Create A New Routine
Everything has changed and so must our daily routine. A routine will make it easier for us to cope as well as for our kids.
You may need to work from home and you might be needing to also fit in your child’s schooling. Kids at home all day also means more cleaning and more chaos.
Create a schedule that helps you cope and get through the day in one piece and that works for your kids too. Make sure they know and understand the new routine which will make it easier for them too.
Sleeping, Eating and Exercising
These three things are essential to your optimal mental and physical health. Right now it may be incredibly hard to sleep, eat and exercise well, but that means we need to work harder to achieve this.
Our physical and mental health is intertwined. One affects that other and vice versa. At this time our physical and mental health needs to be a top priority. We need to keep ourselves physically well which will help protect us against the virus, as well as make sure that our mental health does not slide.
As parents our number one concern is our children, however if we are not physically and mentally healthy it is not going to be easy to look after them as best we can. This is a fact.
Do What You Can and Leave The Rest
Getting things done at this time is not easy. You may not be getting through all your child’s homework or perhaps your house is messy. Nobody was prepared for this pandemic and it is not going to be easy coping. That is fine.
Prioritize what needs to be done so that the most important things are done first. If you can’t get to everything don’t stress about it.
I believe this is especially true it you are being overwhelmed by school work that is being sent home. Yes it is important for our children to keep on doing some school work but if there is too much and it is upsetting you and your kids don’t push it. Rather focus on making sure your kids have a health and positive attitude towards the school work than on the volume you get through.
Let them know that as long as they are doing something and trying their best that is perfect. At some stage the schools will reopen and parents, teachers and students can pick up the pieces then.
Focus On Positivity, Avoid Negativity
Is social media getting you down with all the fake news and negative comments? Then I highly recommend you turn it off. If there is particular person that gets you down every time you see a social media post from or if they phone you to chat? There is nothing wrong with unfollowing and not answering calls.
I’ve personally limited my social media time (sorry Facebook fans) and I’ve also stopped watching the news so often. It’s depressing and it brings me down.
At this time it is so important to keep up the positivity in our lives and limit negativity. The more you do this the healthier your mind will be.
Creating a gratitude list is a wonderful way to stay positive. While the world is falling apart around us there is often so much to be thankful for that we don’t think about. Make a list every morning of all the things you are grateful for.
Stay In The Moment
It is so easy to think about terrible things have happened and worry about what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, after the lockdown and even next year.
Yes it is important to plan for the future but worrying about the future it not going to do you any favours.
If you find yourself stuck with anxiety over what’s to come, try and think about where you are right now. Chances are you are safe and have food and shelter right now for yourself and your family.
If you are not safe and your family is in great need contact contact the South African Government coronavirus helplines for assistance.
This Too Shall Pass
Keep in mind that while it may seem like everything is falling apart right now, this will pass and we can go back to normal… or a new normal anyway.
Pass It On
I mentioned right in the beginning that I have found my recovery program so helpful during this time and one of the most amazing parts of the 12 step program is step 12. Which is about helping others.
In that spirit of things I truly believe that doing small things to help others will make the world of difference to you too. I know that many people think that right now they may not have anything to give, but we all have something we can do to make someone else’s life a little easier.
It does not have to be a huge gesture, it can be reaching out to a friend and just checking in with how they are.
One of the things I am doing to help others is doing daily Zoom videos with both my children’s school classes. We do some school work, but more importantly it is creating a sense of community and it gives the children a chance to see each other.
Another I do every day is choose someone I know and give them a call to check in with how they are. Some people I haven’t spoken to in months or even years… and it is amazing how everyone is so happy to chat right now. Clearly we are craving a sense of connection.
One thing about passing it on (step 12) is that it is about truly being of service to other people, however in the process it helps me too. It really is a win win situation.
Do you have any thoughts, experiences or tips for mental health during COVID-19?