Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
How To Take Care of Your Mental Health During COVID-19
Published Mar 21st, 2020 & updated on Jan 17th, 2022
Remember that time we all used to be able to see one another and could freely hit up our favourite brunch spots? Oh, how times have changed. Thanks to this pandemic, life looks a whole lot different these days. And, it’s fucking hard. For a lot of us, our mental health during COVID-19 is struggling.
And, we get it. Shit, DiveThru was created because our founder had a panic attack on an airplane that resulted in a 38-hour drive across the country.
So, we really really really get it – and that’s why we’re here to help you and your mental wellbeing.
We teamed up with some amazing mental health professionals to put together a guide that will help you as you navigate this difficult, confusing and overwhelming time.
Here’s what we cover in this guide:
- 10 ways to cope with pandemic related anxiety
- 3 guidelines for coping with the news through this time
- 3 tips for managing the isolation and feeling lonely
- 5 ways to care for your mental wellbeing every day
- How to support those working on the front lines
- How to support your family & friends through this time
- Resources to support your mental wellbeing
Before diving thru all of our recommendations, we want you to know that whatever you’re experiencing is valid. Taking care of your mental health during COVID-19 is gonna look a little different than it looked in 2019. This is new for all of us, and we all process things differently. Whatever you’re feeling, this guide is here to help you in whatever way you need.
So, let’s DiveThru!
10 Ways To Cope With Coronavirus Related Anxiety
Anxiety right now is normal. Overwhelm right now is normal. Panic right now is normal. Hitting that pandemic wall after more than a year of a global virus changing your way of life is normal. But you don’t have to be completely consumed by these emotions.
Here’s how we recommend coping:
Tip #1: Understand That You’re Not Alone
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are in the world, we’re all together in this together (cue that High School Musical number). While knowing we’re in this together doesn’t change what we’re facing, it can ease some of the anxiety you may be experiencing.
Tip #2: Talk It Out
No one should ever be an island, especially when we’re faced with social distancing and isolation. Thanks to the worldwide web, we have a ton of tools at our disposal these days like Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp and more. Use them to reach out to those people who can provide you with the love and support you need.
Tip #3: Journal It Out
Journalling is an incredibly powerful tool that can help you to creatively unload the stress, tension and worry in a safe and non-judgemental way. Best of all, it’s free. Pick up your pen, grab a notebook and get writing.
If you’re unsure of where to start, we recommend checking out the DiveThru app! We’ve added numerous journaling exercises related to what we’re all going through, including Caring for Your COVID Anxiety, Coping With Being Laid Off, and Processing The News. You’ll also find a free course in the app, Navigating Life in a Pandemic! We created this course with DiveThru Therapist Simone Saunders to help anyone who needs to process the lessons of the pandemic and figure out what their life will look like post-pandemic.
Interested in learning more about journaling? Check out our comprehensive guide to journaling.
Tip #4: Move Your Body
We are not here for the rhetoric shaming you into working out. That’s not what we’re all about. However, moving your body can be an excellent way to cope with anxiety. So, whether you continue with your regular workouts, go for a walk, dance it out or do some yoga, getting your blood moving and those feel-good endorphins flowing can help alleviate some stress.
Tip #5: Take Medication, When Needed (and if Possible)
Medication saves lives and can be an absolute powerhouse of a tool during this time. If you’re on any kind of medication, ensure that you continue to take it regularly. If you have medication for emergencies, take it when needed.
If possible, ensure you have a supply at home that will last you for at least a couple of weeks until the worst of this situation has eased.
And remember, there is no shame in needing to take medication for your mental health. If that’s a tool in your toolbox, use it!
Tip #6: Get Phone-Free Time
We all want to stay informed at the moment so we know the latest about COVID-19. However, it’s easy to get sucked in, overwhelmed and feel more anxious when you’re being inundated with news, social media, and other digital noise. Make sure you put your phone down, at least for a while. Your brain will thank you.
Read a book, go for a walk, talk to someone, journal, learn to knit, do a puzzle, play a board game – whatever it is, take a moment away from Twitter. The memes will still be there when you get back.
Tip #7: Do Breathing Exercises
Your breath is always there for you. And, it’s a great tool that can help reduce your stress levels, calm your body and ensure that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Best part? Focusing on your breath for as little as 2 minutes can help!
Here’s our favourite exercise:
Breathe in for a count of 4
Hold your breath for a count of 4
Breathe out for a count of 4
And repeat for however long
Woosah, friends, woosah.
Tip #8: Get Clear on Your Finances
No one wants to talk about money at a time like this, but getting clear on your finances can do wonders for your mental health.
If you have the mental space to do so, take time to understand how the pandemic will personally affect you. Take note of how much you have in your bank, and create a plan that will help you get through.
While this tip might bring more stress at first, it will help quiet the financial-related stress you may be experiencing in the long run.
Tip #9: Prioritize Sleep
The longer you sleep, the less time you’ll feel cooped up…right? Right! While sleep is a great way to pass the time, it’s also hella important for your mental wellbeing. It will help lower your stress hormones, cope better with the uncertainty, stay positive and boost your immune system too.
So, get them Zs.
Tip #10: Maintain Any Type of Normalcy and Routine
Yes, making massive changes in the way we can work, shop, socialize and educate our kids certainly sucks. But if you can find any normalcy throughout it, it can help.
Create a schedule for yourself each day – even if all that’s on it is when you’ll eat and sleep. If you’re working from home, get dressed for the day. Schedule time to connect with friends. Make a plan for what books you want to read.
Do what you can to find some routine and rhythm throughout your day.
(Or, don’t. There’s a whole lot of talk out there about crushing your goals during this time. And honestly, we’re not here for it. Sure, you could write a book, or you could just give yourself space to feel how you’re feeling and rest. There’s a lot of uncertainty and your goals can wait.)
Now that we’ve covered different ways for you to cope with the anxiety you may be experiencing, let’s talk about the boundaries we encourage you to set around the news.
3 Guidelines for Coping With the News Through This Time
If you’re struggling with your mental health, the news can be especially stressful. However, with all of these updates that just seem to get worse, it’s harder than ever. Here’s how we recommend you prioritize your mental wellbeing while navigating the news:
Tip #1: Establish Boundaries (No Morning Or Nighttime Scrolling)
Checking the news every second is only going to leave you feeling burnt out, exhausted and extremely anxious about what’s going on with the latest wave of COVID-19. Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning or last thing at night. By doing so, you’ll allow your day to start off on a more positive note and will give yourself mental space and get a more restful night’s sleep.
If there are important news updates, be mindful of the time and tune in then.
Tip #2: Ensure You’re Turning to Credible Sites
We hate to be those people, but fake news is truly everywhere. Dr. Kelly Vincent recommends tuning into only credible sources at this time (and always, let’s be honest).
Tip #3: Limit Social Commentary
Everyone has an opinion on everything that’s happening right now. Is the government doing the right thing? Is the vaccine safe? What’s with these variants? Is it all a conspiracy? Don’t get involved with this crap. By all means, connect with your friends, but don’t let yourself get into arguments or get too stressed.
While it’s more important than ever to stay in the know, it’s also more important than ever to establish certain guidelines around your news intake. By following these suggestions, you’ll be able to better handle everything you hear.
If a piece of news you read or watched has overwhelmed you, we put together a guided journaling exercise within the DiveThru app that will help you process the feelings you’re experiencing.
Aside from managing your anxiety and setting boundaries around the news, it’s normal to have feelings of loneliness pop up.
3 Tips for Managing the Isolation & Loneliness
Social distancing is one of the ways we’re going to try to beat this horrible virus. With the easing of lockdowns, then bringing them back in some places, or needing to quarantine, loneliness can become a big challenge. We’re a highly social species and need human contact to feel well. For now, we can learn to adapt our habits and feel OK. Here’s how we recommend navigating feelings of loneliness:
Tip #1: Stay Connected
When we can’t hang out face to face, we can still stay connected to our friends. Get in touch with those who might need your support, talk to friends online, hang out on video calls, take advantage of those group streaming events that are happening everywhere.
“Think about the things in common you have with friends and find creative ways to connect. For example, watch Netflix together via a Chrome extension, call a friend a day, create a connecting routine such as happy hour drinks via video, Taco Tuesdays via Facetime and so on.”
Tip #2: Go Outside!
Most places allow you to go outside, even with restrictions on gatherings. Whether you are allowed to get outdoors by yourself, or with a friend, it can certainly help! Getting out into the sunshine and getting fresh air will lift your spirits, keep your blood flowing and help you feel better.
So, walk your dog, go for a run, go on a biking adventure or go for a walk. Whatever you choose, it can help your mental health!
Tip #3: Join an Online Club or Take a Course
Always wanted to learn a new skill? Fancy tuning up your Afro Dance skills? Learning to crochet? Furthering your career with a spot of computer coding? Now is an excellent opportunity.
As we mentioned, we’re not here for the mentality that you should be crushing your goals right now, but if it feels good to you, why not expand your knowledge base!
Our founder, Sophie Gray, often talks about relearning French. Who knows, maybe after all of this is done, we’ll translate the DiveThru app to French!
5 Ways To Care for Your Mental Wellbeing Every Day
Life is tough right now. And again, whatever way you’re handling it is valid. As we touched on, there are things you can do for your mental wellbeing to mitigate the pandemic stress you’re facing.
Here are five great habits you can adopt right now to manage a little bit better:
Tip #1: Stick to Some Version of a Routine
Routines help us to feel safe, reduce stress and help add some structure into our lives. Keep getting up at the same time. Eat your meals at the same time. Workout at the same time.
As community psychologist Catriona Hall suggests, “Keep routine as best you can, get up, showered and dressed if you’re able. Eat well and keep your sleep pattern. Try and keep your mind occupied, don’t set unachievable goals – small things like watching a movie, reading an article or taking a bath.”
You heard her – go watch that movie!
Tip #2: Get Fresh Air
Throw those windows open or go for a walk! All that fresh air will make your home a healthier place to be, lift your spirits and help you feel more connected to the world.
Tip #3: Take Social Media Breaks
We mentioned it before, and we’ll mention it again… Don’t let yourself get sucked into social media right now. Give yourself regular breaks throughout the day as well as keeping social media strictly off-limits first thing in the morning and right before bed.
“Take breaks from the internet,” says community psychologist Catriona Hall. “It helps to be informed but we all need time to center ourselves. Panic is just as contagious as this virus. Avoid tabloids and clickbait looking to capture you with frightening or dramatized headlines.”
Tip #4: Maintain Personal Hygiene
Spending a whole day in pajamas can be therapeutic. And, if you can’t bring yourself to shower, that’s okay.
If you can, we do recommend it, though. Wash your hair, brush your teeth, do your laundry, put on something other than sweatpants.
As mentioned, any bit of normalcy during this time can be a huge help.
Tip #5: Journal, Journal, Journal!
By far, one of the best ways to relieve stress safely is by journaling. It doesn’t cost much, doesn’t take much effort and works miracles.
We also have a great new course in the DiveThru app all about dealing with the many challenges and changes that come with COVID-19 life. In “Navigating Life in a Pandemic,” therapist Simone Saunders will explain the complicated emotions we’re all going through, the concept of collective trauma, and some exercises to help you handle the stress that comes with an uncertain future. Check it out and get your pandemic mental health in check!
How To Support Our First Line Of Support Workers
Now that we’ve shared tips and tricks for you to support yourself and your mental health during COVID-19, let’s focus on others. Support workers are being challenged right now as they try to provide their help, support, and services to those of us who need it the most. They’re bound to be feeling the pandemic fatigue and dealing with intense stress. Let’s make it easier for them to continue to do this life-altering stuff.
Here are a few ways we can support them during this time:
Tip #1: Get Vaccinated
There’s a lot of information out there about the vaccine. We understand that for some people, it’s been developed too fast, not tested enough, and getting vaccinated is not in their plan. Too many uncertainties!
Please consider getting vaccinated. We know that it’s a big decision, so follow the science, read research-backed resources, and trust your doctor. Try to stay away from social media “experts” and look for people with real credentials. Talk to a vaccinated person that you trust and ask why they got it. Have an open and honest discussion about why you’re unsure about getting it.
If you are vaccinated and want to talk to someone you know about why you think they should get vaccinated, remember to approach the topic with empathy and understanding. This pandemic has taken such a massive toll on everyone and there are a lot of heightened emotions. Let’s actually talk, let’s work through it together, and let’s remember, we’re all just people living through – we’re so sorry to have to use this word – an unprecedented time. So let’s all try to understand one another right now.
Tip #2: #StayTheFHome
Be responsible and #staythefhome. By staying home and practicing social distancing, you’ll reduce your chances of contracting the virus and reduce the risk of those around you getting sick. Additionally, you’ll help lessen the burden on our health care workers who are putting themselves at risk every day.
Do them (and yourself and the world) a favour and #staythefhome.
Tip #3: Encourage Friends To Stay Home
We all have those friends who think they’re totally invincible. Don’t let them take risks. Remind them to stay at home, show them the COVID-19 statistics and encourage them to do the right thing.
Tip #4: Check In
Just as you feel stressed and overwhelmed, so do those who are tirelessly showing up to work every day to fight this virus or support essential businesses (think grocery stores).
Check in on your nurse friends.
Check in on your doctor friends.
Check in on your service workers.
Check in on your political friends.
Send a message to let them know you’re thinking of them and appreciate all that they’re doing for the world right now.
Tip #5: Ask How You Can Help
Those who are in hospitals, working in a grocery store and other similar positions are doing so much right now. Psychologist Mallory Becker suggests you ask them what they need. She goes on to say “offer childcare, meals, self-care items, thank you cards, and shovel their driveway.”
At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. And, we can all help one another through this. We all have a role to play (even if it’s simply #stayingthefhome).
How To Support Your Family & Friends Through This Time
It’s not just us who need to take care of our mental health or those working the front lines. Our loved ones are struggling, too. Here’s how you can support them:
Tip #1: Check In
Be there for those you care about. Check in with them often. Ask them if they’re OK. Offer to help if they need it and actually mean it. Even though it’s just a small act on your part, the thought that someone is there for them is enough to make a big difference.
“Validate feelings of fear and anxiety,” says licensed Psychologist Dr. Kelly Vincent, “Offer emotional support. Reach out to more vulnerable populations to see if you could help in any way.”
Tip #2: Ask First
Before you start discussing COVID-19, be mindful of how the other person is feeling. Ask them first if they’re in the right space to talk about it and be respectful and understanding if they’d prefer to talk about something else.
Tip #3: Listen
It’s easy to share our own fears and worries with others and forget to listen to the other person. They might be struggling and need your help. The only way you will know is if you slow down and listen.
Tip #4: Stay Away
As mentioned, it’s time to #staythefhome. If your local government has put in restrictions and measures due to a really high number of cases, please follow them. We know it’s been a hard 2 years fighting this thing (wow 2 years???) but we know that these measures help to flatten the curve and prevent our health care systems from being overloaded. Do your part to protect those around you, including the nurses and doctors in our hospitals.
Resources To Support Your Mental Wellbeing
There are times when we need to reach out to ask for help and that’s perfectly OK. Remember, we’re all in this together. Here are some excellent places you can get the help you need.
Resource #1: Crisis Counselling Line
There are text and call lines across the world that are designed to support people through times of crisis. You can find one that’s for your country by googling the name of your country and mental health crisis line.
Otherwise, for the United States, through the Crisis Hotline, you can text HOME to 741741and they will put you in touch with a counsellor.
In Canada, you can call Crisis Service Canada for support.
Resource #2: Subsidized Mental Health Services
There are numerous services worldwide that offer mental health services at a reduced rate. We recommend googling subsidized mental health services along with your country to find resources available for you.
Additionally, psychologists across the world are offering e-mental health services, like DiveThru’s own, Natalie of Renew Wellness.
Resource #3: The Internet
While the internet can be a dark place, there’s also a ton of beautiful people in the world who are here to help you out when you most need it. Often a quick Google search is all you need to find help, support, and guidance when things get tough.
Resource #5: The DiveThru App
Journaling is a great practice that can help you express your fears and worries in a safe space. It’s free and simply requires a journal and a pen.
If you’re looking for a journaling resource, we do recommend checking out the DiveThru app. As mentioned, it’s free to download! You’ll also find a free course we’ve created to help everyone process this pandemic – look for Navigating Life in a Pandemic with DiveThru Therapist Simone Saunders.
In closing, please remember that we’re all in this together and whatever you’re facing is valid. And, although these are challenging times, by supporting each other, taking care of ourselves and staying positive, we will get through this.