Taking care of your mental health during COVID-19

Taking care of yourself and your mental health

17 Apr 2020 by Kitomba

COVID-19 has changed everyone’s lives in some way. These many changes, combined with the ongoing uncertainty of this evolving situation, can take a toll on our mental health. That’s why it’s so important to acknowledge how you’re feeling and show yourself some extra kindness right now. Here are some quick tips on how to look after your mind and body.

1. Manage the expectations you place on yourself

If you’re a salon owner or manager, you may feel like there’s added pressure to set goals and complete all the projects you’ve had on the back burner, as well as look after your team. Keep in mind that your team knows you and understands that you’re only human. If you let your thoughts centre around what people are expecting of you, even the most enjoyable of tasks can become a struggle. Focus on small tasks that you can manage, and group them into short bursts with regular breaks in between.

2. Schedule daily meetings with your team 

No matter how much your team is able to do from home, for example, help you with projects or complete additional training, the social aspect of work may be gone. This may be quite a gap to fill for some people, so make sure to have team talks that don’t just centre around work. Popular activities for virtual social gatherings include baking lessons, Friday drinks or even games and quizzes. So get creative and have a bit of fun!

3. Have honest conversations with your team

Each member of your team will be dealing with different stressors in their new environment. Bored children, worried spouses, social isolation, less than ideal living situations and dysfunctional bubbles may now be part of the equation along with an increase in anxiety, depression and loneliness. 

Checking in with your team members on how they’re feeling may not always result in honest answers, but it will open up a safe space for conversation. Be careful not to minimise their feelings, instead use language that is supportive and understanding. You don’t have to be a counsellor to be able to provide support, simply letting your team know that you’re available if they need to talk can make a big difference. 

4. Get outside

It doesn’t matter if it’s your balcony, your deck, your lawn (if you have one), or even sitting in front of an open window, getting some fresh air and sunlight every day helps your body stay in touch with its circadian rhythm. It’s much harder to be productive when your sleep, energy levels and appetite are out of whack.

5. Take the pressure off

Your social media feed is probably filled with people baking new things, learning languages, cooking gorgeous meals and learning new skills – that doesn’t mean you have to as well. If you have the time and energy, you might want to look into doing something that brings you joy, but you may prefer to do nothing at all, to just relax and take it one day at a time. If this sounds like you, do yourself a favour and take some time out from the news and social media, watch movies with your bubble, read a book, get out for a walk in your neighbourhood, or do whatever brings you calm. 

6. Remind yourself to reach out to your friends and family

This may be obvious, but as each day flows into the next, we can forget that we haven’t been talking to our loved ones as frequently as we would like. You could make a plan with a friend to call each other as you’re eating breakfast, going for walks, or even cleaning the bathroom. There are lots of multiplayer games you can play over applications such as Facebook Messenger, Zoom, Houseparty and Skype. Remember that we’re all in this together and with the technology available to us these days there’s no need to feel alone.

7. Try out some mental health and mindfulness apps

Mindfulness is often pushed by medical professionals as the best way to deal with your anxious thoughts. Meditation isn’t easy for everyone, but apps like Headspace and Calm are great tools to help you get started. 

If you’re in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has just launched a new app founded by depression spokesperson John Kirwan called Mentemia. It uses “evidence-based research to tailor content to mental health needs, offering advice and training exercises like a virtual counsellor. It learns and responds to your preferences the more you use it, coaching you about how the mind has a tendency to create stress and anxiety, and the simple tools you can use to let them go.”

8. Avoid leaning on alcohol or sugar

When no one’s watching, it can be easy to slip in another beer or glass of wine, or finish off the brownies you thought would be fun to bake. It’s also a way to curb boredom and lift your mood temporarily. If you’re struggling with dependencies like these, consider how you can distract yourself from them, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. It might be as simple as asking someone in your bubble to stop suggesting a 4pm wine everyday, baking healthy alternatives, or avoiding buying the things that tempt you.

9. Listen to your body

Pay acttention to the signals that may be indicating you’re stressed. Common indicators are tight shoulders, biting nails, restless legs, a shorter fuse, or persistent worrying about things that normally wouldn’t be a problem. If you’re crying over spilt milk, maybe there’s something else going on. Focusing on your breathing can help, taking slow, deep breaths from your belly instead of your chest engages your rest and digestive system and slows down your heart rate. This will calm your mind and help you think more clearly. 

10. Maintain a routine

As we no longer adhere to a regular work schedule, even brushing your teeth may be something you forget. Or, because you don’t commute to work anymore, you sleep in and don’t allow yourself time to fully wake up before starting your daily to-do list. Losing this routine affects us more than we realise and can leave us wondering why we’re struggling to be productive. One way to get around this is to set reminders on your phone. Don’t overdo it and create a sea of notifications that you won’t attend to, just remind yourself of the important things. Brush your teeth, change your clothes, shower, and get some exercise when you feel like it. 

Many people are struggling with the changes and uncertainty related to COVID-19, so don’t be surprised if you are too. Just remember to put yourself and your mental health first, and if you’re struggling, use some of these tips to help you feel a little more like your usual self. 

If you need further help, get in touch with your local support services in New Zealand, Australia or the UK.

For more advice, assistance and tools that can help you at this time, visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre.

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