COVID-19: Taking care of your mental health during these unusual times

Published 2020-03-24 13:24

Being forced to remain indoors with limited social interaction coupled with the threat of the Coronavirus is an unusual situation to be in to say the least. Especially if you’re an expat living away from your loved ones, it can definitely take a toll on one’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. Here are a few tips on how to take care of your mental health during the COVID-19 disease outbreak as an expat.

Be in touch with your emotions

A global pandemic and being locked-in for several days with limited social interaction can make you a little on edge. Yes! And it is important that you acknowledge this feeling. Do not pretend that everything is going well. It is important to be in touch with your emotions during these trying times. 

Now, while getting in touch with one’s emotions is easily said… how does it translate in real life? Maybe some of you already have a way of doing this- maybe it is journaling or mindfulness but if you don’t, do not panic. Mindfulness simply means being aware of yourself and your state of mind mindfully. It may seem like an easy thing to do, but with our buzzing lives, it can take a little training to sit back and just be. Thankfully, there are a lot of tutorials online and there are even a few free apps, for example, Smiling Mind, run by an NGO. Same for journaling, if you want to are ready to try and write down your emotions and state of mind but don’t quite know where to begin, there are plenty of free tutorials online!

Do not hesitate to turn the news off

It can feel very hard to stay away from the news these days. It feels like you have a duty to remain in the know: how many cases are there, how many deaths, what measures are being taken, how are the hospitals coping… It is never-ending. But, you do not have to remain in the know if it does get a little overwhelming. And, let’s be honest, it can get very overwhelming.

But how to disconnect when the COVID-19 epidemic is all you hear about on the TV, is all over your Facebook newsfeed and even the boys from the video game WhatsApp group are not talking about football anymore? Be ruthless! Turn off the TV, or switch to Netflix or watch a DVD. If you need to sign out of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, do so. If you need to uninstall the apps from your phone even for a few hours to stop getting notifications, do so. And if you need to mute the boys’ football group, do so without feeling guilty! Your mental health comes first. And when you’re ready, you can catch up with everyone again!

Keep in touch with friends and family often

As an expat, you might be alone in your host country or even if you have family with you, some of your loved ones might be back home and this can be nerve-wracking. You might miss the warmth of your mum’s hugs in these dire times. Or you might be anxious about their health and conditions.

This is absolutely normal. And you should, indeed, keep in touch with family and friends back home as much as possible. Video call your loved ones whenever you feel like you need to. But you can also decide to do activities together. For example, you can watch a movie together with the new Netflix party plug-in, for example. Or you can decide to follow an online fitness class or take up a 30-day challenge together. It can be an extremely comforting bonding experience to live these with your loved ones even if you are not physically together.

Be careful setting up a work from home routine

A lot of us will be working from home in this period of lockdown and this can be a very daunting experience. Feelings of loneliness from not having your colleagues around, being distracted by your children or friends at home, being anxious that you might not be doing things as well as you need to, being pressured to be over-productive or even depression from the above creeping in.

First of all, you need to be gentle with yourselves during these times. Understand that you do need to be productive and convince yourselves that everything is going to be okay. One step at a time, try to set up a routine, remain connected to your colleagues and make sure you are able to ask questions whenever you need to.

Set up a routine

Being at home all day long is not as easy as it sounds. It can mean not being able to wake up, being stressed about our jobs, feeling lonely from the lack of social interaction. Therefore, it is important that you set up a routine. If you are working from home, make sure you set a nice workspace for yourself. Wake up at the same time everyday, have a shower, eat a nice breakfast.

And if you are not working from home, then still have this routine. Set goals for yourselves for this period of lockdown. Do you want to master yoga? Learn new recipes? Maybe you want to write or read more. According to your goals, set up a routine. Most important of all is to be excited about the goal you’ve set yourself!

 Also, work out as usual. Sure, you cannot go to the gym but you can workout at home- there are plenty of resources online! Remember, exercise releases endorphins- the feel good hormone!

Give in to what makes you feel good

These are no ordinary time guys! So if you feel like eating this chocolate bar today or stay in the bath a little (or a lot) longer or give in to the temptation of binging on a Netflix show, don’t forget to give in to your wants from time to time. Of course, in moderation. But remember to be kind to yourselves!