Mental Health Wellness Tips for Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic

By: Sarah Woodruff

I recently came across a post “Mental Health Wellness Tips for Quarantine” by Dr. Eileen Feliciano, a Psychologist in New York. She has put together an extensive list of tips to help us all cope with the isolation and fear that we all may be feeling regarding the pandemic. She says, “I can’t control a lot of what is going on right now, but I can contribute this.” That is true for all of us, we cannot control a lot of what is going on in the world right now, but we all have things that we can contribute and accomplish, no matter how small. I’ve adapted her tips for MTU students, check them out below: 


1. Stick to a routine

Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for classes, homework as well as self-care.

2. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have

Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or a facial.  Put on some bright colors.  It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.

3. Get out at least once a day, for at least 30 minutes

If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less travelled streets and avenues.  If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan.  It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.

4. Find some time to move, again daily for at least 30 minutes

If you do not feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!

5. Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for 30 minutes

Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support.  

6. Stay hydrated and eat well

This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often do not mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food.  Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!

7. Develop a self-care toolkit

This can look different for everyone.  A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure).  An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket.  A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath.  Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation. 

8. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth

A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone.  Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best.  It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements.  Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.

9. Everyone find their own retreat space

Space is at a premium.  It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation.  Identify a place where you can go to retreat when stressed.  You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, or beanbags.  It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.

10. Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance

We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress.  This does not make a formula for excellence.  Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self-acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback.  You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation. 

11. Limit social media and COVID conversations

One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist.  Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily).  

12. Notice the good in the world, the helpers

There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic.  There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways.  It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information. 

13. Help others

Find ways, big and small, to give back to others.  Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control. 

14. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it

In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world.  Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture.  It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.

15. Find a long-term project to dive into

Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing.  Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.

16. Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements

Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.

17. Find an expressive art and go for it

Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling.  Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all.  See how relieved you can feel.  It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!

18. Find lightness and humor in each day

There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason.  Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.

19. Reach out for help – your team is there for you

If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance.  Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can.  If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time.  There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis.  There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.

20. “Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment

We have no road map for this.  We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now.  Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable.  Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry.  Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.

21. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary

It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end.  It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us.  Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass.  We will return to feeling free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.

22. Find the lesson

This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable.  When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can affect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction.  What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis?  What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?

Article credit: Eileen Feliciano, NYS Psychologist. Original article can be found here: http://www.sfu.ca/olc/blog/my-ssp/mental-health-wellness-tips-quarantine


Comments Closed