(Read time: 6 minutes)
When the pandemic started to interfere with daily routines, a lot of mental health organizations reminded us to not just take care of our bodies – additional focus should be given to our mental health as well. Eventually, it became clear why. Routines went all over the place, isolation poses new challenges, and self-care became even more essential. We all have different ways to cope, but is it possible that we are potentially doing more harm than good for our mental health.
Mental Health During the Quarantine
My experience with dealing with various people has taught me that everyone copes differently. The self-care and healing that might work for one might not work – or even debilitate – another. With so much mental health advice and self-care suggestions floating around, I’m offering you a little caveat that I usually give my overwhelmed clients, do what your heart tells you to do.
Social media is a treasure trove of good advice, but you can also find disheartening suggestions like “just be positive!” and “embrace the quarantine challenges with a smile.” You’re allowed to feel. You’re allowed to choose what you think will work for you.
Listen to your heart. Do what makes YOU feel better.
That’s why in this blog, I’d love to explore a few common suggestions that are already out there, and share more about how they might alleviate some pressure on our mental health.
Stop Obsessing Over The News
Have you ever received advice to watch the news so you can be on the loop as to what really is happening? Although knowing the essential facts about our situation right now is important, obsessing over the news, especially when news outlets tend to blow things out of proportion for click bait, it can cause extreme worry and anxiety.
The news stresses my partner out, so what we do is, I skim through the news myself and give him the important headlines once or twice a week. He’s switched off completely from the news and social media so that he doesn’t get distracted anymore. If the news is too much, it’s okay to turn it off and focus on having a mindful, realistic perspective. And also be mindful of people you live with. If they’re sensitive to the news, you’re not helping them by leaving the TV on 24/7.
Take A Break Between Work
Loving PSA: this pandemic is traumatic so pressuring yourself to finish everything you’ve put off for a while, or going for big goals while on quarantine, can unfortunately backfire. Our sympathetic nervous system is currently confused because we could not respond accordingly. If you feel like you prefer to just sit around, read a book, and be unapologetically lazy the entire day, do it. The pressure to do, do, do, can just make us more exhausted and stressed.
Thank goodness for J.K. Rowling who called out life coaches who are insinuating that those who won’t accomplish anything after the quarantine lack discipline.
Yes, you have more time in your hands, but no – you are not required to accomplish big things just to validate your worth.
Productivity takes on different meanings nowadays. So if productivity for you means drinking your coffee quietly while enjoying your favorite self-help book, that’s fabulous!
You Don’t Need To Be Overly Positive
I believe in the empowering capacity of being positive. I love how positivity shifts my perspective from good to bad. But there’s a danger in believing that we need to be perpetual optimists.
When positivity is used to conceal the hardship of the experience, it becomes toxic. You might be told to “see the good in everything” or “choose to be positive.” Although they are good advice, they can make you feel ashamed, guilty, and angry that you’re feeling awful about the situation.
You are allowed to feel. Don’t stop pushing through these challenging times. But if positivity doesn’t work right now, don’t force yourself.
Helping People Is Great, But Help Yourself First
Just like airplane safety would advise, in case of emergency, put an oxygen mask on yourself first before you put it on other people. You need to take care of yourself first so that you are able to function well and be there for others.
Having a desire to help is the norm these days. Helping people is great. However becoming addicted to helping people (yes there is such a thing) is where you need to check yourself. Why is that? Are you taking on other people’s emotions (aka hyperempathy)? Or are you wrapping yourself into people’s situations so you can let your own emotions flood out of the gates? Note that those are two very different things. Are you feeling overwhelmed and burnt out by emotions? If all this sounds familiar, I highly recommend looking into an emotional energy healing session and disconnecting from emotional cords, which could really negatively impact you.
Don’t obsess over not being able to help everyone; consider what’s the best way to help based on your capacity. It could be offering a skill, reaching out to people or making a donation. IMPACT Hong Kong, Lifelong Animal Protection and Paws United are where my dollars are these days. The knowledge that you can help others within your circle of reach can eliminate an overwhelming sense of helplessness.
Feeling Guilty About Sleeping
This COVID-19 situation has made our sympathetic nervous system go haywire, so it’s understandable that our body will feel like it has much lower energy. Sleeping is a great way to cope. Resting and getting all the sleep that we need are always great ways to strengthen the immune system.
Don’t feel guilty if you need to catch some zzz’s. Your body needs it.
Give Into Your Cravings
This unprecedented COVID-19 set up can make us crave for more comfort food. Most of the time, comfort food can be sweets, sugary pastries, or salt-laden bites. Although coping through eating is not bad, we must also remember to eat well and eat smart. Quarantine loneliness and boredom can make us reach out for the fridge more than ever. But giving in to every junk food can actually make you feel worse after. (provided you don’t have any medical condition/concern)
When giving in to cravings, indulge in moderation. Eat your cravings, but also remember to eat well and eat smart.
COVID-19 is extra tough on mental health, it pays to give extra attention to what we’re mentally feeling. Choose the right form of self-care. Choose activities that make you happy. In the midst of the information overload on how to cope with the pandemic mentally, remember that the best self-care options are the ones YOU believe can make you truly, deeply feel better.