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How to protect your mental health during the pandemic

There’s enough going on. Don’t let your mental health take a beating, too

By MICHAEL U. JIMENEZ, RPsy, RN, LPT, MBA, MAPsy, Dip OD

As I have reiterated in mental health-related seminars that I have conducted, we should always see the interconnectedness of our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Framing an alignment among these three will help us stay sane and cope when things are rough—as what we are now experiencing.

Primarily, we have to monitor our thoughts. We should ask ourselves, “What is it that I believe in about this crisis? Do I believe it at all?” Having a mindset that ‘I won’t be affected’ is a form of denial that may impact one’s behavior. 

Hence, one has to come to terms with the fact that the problem—despite all out efforts to suppress it—the point of no return is already here, and we are called to adapt.

This state of adaptation is something we are already familiar with—attending first day in school, changing place of residence, breaking up in a relationship, landing a job, losing a loved one. We, perhaps, were overwhelmed at first, but we eventually found our way to navigate through those uncharted and unprecedented events.

It is therefore important for us to realize today how we were able to surpass such challenging circumstances. And once again, build up on those strengths that have paved our way to survival. 

This is a time of self-discovery—on how resilient you will be. Hence, here are some tips on how you can practice self-care and be resilient during this period of unpredictability.

1. Self-distraction

This one’s a treat: temporarily give yourself a break from facing the problem. This is something that almost everybody has done in the past few days (For example: Listen to music, watch TV, surf the internet, play video games, or begin your Tiktok series). 

2. Emotion management.

Venting which means expressing your emotions for the sake of expressing them—sitting there alone in the corner and then crying for all you want—is not going to be helpful in solving the problem. So might as well, get someone to talk to. You may look for support, other than emotional, like asking someone to accompany you to look for or buy items that you need.

3. Plan

With whatever money you have left, you know you have to stretch it further so make an expense plan for the entire lockdown period. Budget the canned goods you have. 

4. Focus

You will be swamped with lots of worries—physical, emotional, social, and financial. In default mode, our minds wander usually about regrets of the past and anxieties of the future. When you write down the problems on index cards (one index card for each problem) or a notebook, and write a necessary solution, you are helping your brain to compartmentalize each issue and assign a necessary solution the next time your mind begins to wander.

5. Act

Afraid that you might get the disease? Do something. Buy that alcohol (It’s available again), and use it. Disinfect your surroundings. Stay at home. Keep washing your hands again and again and again. That’s how they do it in hospitals. Nothing wrong with overacting when one’s life is at stake.

6. Religion

Whatever your religion, engage in your rituals, but keep your distance. Life is filled with uncertainty. And uncertainty fuels anxiety. Surrendering to a higher force releases us from the pangs of unpredictability, knowing that a stronger power is in control. Moreover, a prayer conjures positive emotions including hope, gratitude, optimism, and above all, serenity.

7. Humor.

For every 10 articles about the problem, one humorous article changes the brain waves. It cuts the pattern of anxiety, frustration, and sadness and turns it to joy, amusement, and awe. Salute to everyone who is doing and giving the best Tiktok renditions, designing hilarious memes, posting their funny quarantine moments, and finding humor in the midst of this crisis.

8. Socialize.

Check that phone and connect with people. Click likes on our frontliners’ post. Show appreciation (From a simple greeting to donating personal protective equipment)—thank people in hospitals, streets, checkpoints and appreciate their time and effort. Two words can go a long long way.

9. Routine.

The brain wants predictability over anxiety, hence, you have to make a plan on what to do when you wake up (although you’re enjoying your vacation). This is a crisis, and in a crisis situation, its best to re-establish routine—what to do, when to do it, even though there are some adjustments on how to do it because of the recent events.

10. Mindfulness.

For so many years, our minds have been trampled by so many preoccupations and aspirations for the future, until this. This is a time to take a pause, a time to ask ourselves what is it that we truly value. What is it that truly matters to us? We have to think about it now. Because when this pestilence fades, we will become preoccupied again, and we might forget about what is it that we should value most, the present moment, our right here, right now—the people around us—and perhaps, the spiritual renewal that is taking place in the hearts of many.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2020/09/21/how-to-protect-your-mental-health-during-the-pandemic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-protect-your-mental-health-during-the-pandemic)

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