by Holly Stewart, BSW, MSOL
Director of Resident Wellness
In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most of us can say that we’ve never experienced anything quite like this in our lifetime. Whether you are a front line healthcare worker caring for sick patients with limited resources, or you are homebound and adjusting to a new way of life – feelings of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety about what is happening and what is to come are not uncommon.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
We know that getting enough sleep, hydrating adequately, spending time outdoors, and exercising regularly are all beneficial for our physical and mental health. However, as the landscape continues to develop, consider these other strategies for supporting your mental and emotional health.
REMEMBER THE GOOD
Fred Rogers once said, “when I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.” This wisdom is more relevant than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we are able to observe extraordinary acts of compassion, kindness, and service occurring in our own lives and across the globe.
In our northeast Georgia community, a surge of volunteers have come forward to sew cloth masks for our clinical providers in the current PPE shortage. Our school systems continue to deliver meals to children who need them, some retail stores are offering protected hours for elderly shoppers, and other local businesses have found creative ways to support one another in the face of decreasing sales. Being attentive to these acts of kindness, and becoming helpers ourselves, can ease feelings of distress and give us an increased sense of purpose.
For starters, you can check out this feel-good compilation of 8 Acts of Goodness during the COVID-19 Outbreak
BE MINDFUL OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA AND NEWS INTAKE
As we know, social media is an incredible way to stay connected with friends and family, as well as staying informed on what’s going on in the world and in our local communities – and many of us are gravitating to this outlet during this time of isolation and uncertainty. However, when using social media, it is important to pay attention to exactly how you are engaging with it and its impact on your mental and emotional health. Take a few moments to observe your reactions as you scroll through your feed. Do you mostly engage with content that interests you or lifts your spirits, or are you dwelling on things that make you feel scared, frustrated or inadequate? Are your interactions with friends and strangers mostly positive, or do you find yourself being drawn into unproductive arguments?
Tune in to those emotional responses and adjust accordingly. This can be as simple as avoiding content that you know will likely annoy or upset you (the comments section anyone?) or curating your feed so that you primarily see what is meaningful and helpful to you. Setting time limits can also be useful. Consider implementing a “social media free” block of 2-3 hours in your day, preferably before bedtime, and spend that time doing something else you enjoy. Experiment with what works for you and how to make the best of this powerful tool.
REACH OUT FOR HELP
If you’re struggling, you don’t have to struggle alone. Many mental health providers are now offering virtual appointments, or you can take advantage of text-based therapy services such as Talkspace. You can also visit the Resident Wellness page on our Graduate Medical Education website to explore free mental health screening tools, although they are not to be used as a substitute for a professional mental health assessment.
If your situation is urgent and you aren’t able to wait to connect with help, you can contact the Georgia Crisis Access Line 1-800-715-4225, the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990 (or text TalkWithUs to 66746), or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8225.
National Alliance on Mental Illness: COVID-19 Resource Guide
Greater Good Magazine: Guide to Well-Being During Coronavirus
CDC: Managing Stress & Anxiety