Finding Balance: Your Mental & Physical Health
Beyond the “New Normal”
It’s been about four months since the COVID-19 outbreak forced many professionals to work from home. Most of us have been forced to adjust to a new normal, regardless of our profession or industry. For some, this new way of life has created new risk factors and has taken a toll on their physical and mental health.
Pre-COVID-19, a large number of people suffered from many various types of anxiety disorders. Post-COVID-19, required isolation may make it worse. For example, those who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder experience everyday social interactions differently than those without. These daily interactions can cause irrational fear, self-consciousness, embarrassment, and more.
Even with social interactions becoming virtual through Zoom and other virtual meeting software, those who struggle in social situations may find a sense of increased anxiety due to stresses that come with the use of technology.
With the spread of COVID-19 becoming worse in many parts of the US, it is important to have tools to properly survive (mentally and physically) whatever comes next. In today’s article, we hope to equip you with the tools to fight anxiety and depression, implement a bit of self-care, and find new motivation.
According to the CDC, “pandemics can be stressful”. Social distancing may be the best way to ensure you avoid contracting COVID-19, but the added isolation can lean to the feeling of loneliness, increased stress, and anxiety(1). This mental health strain can begin to cause physical health strain, increased drug and alcohol abuse, and toxic communication with friends and loved ones.
We not only stress about our jobs, financial situation, personal health, and the health of loved ones, we also stress about the unknown. As humans, we tend to become more anxious the less control we have over a situation. If there is no solution or end to the situation in sight, we may begin to lose hope and become increasingly hostile towards the situation.
With increased heart rate, chest pain, shortness of breath, panic attacks due to increased anxiety can cause serious concerns about heart problems or cardiac arrest (heart attacks). This short term affliction can affect anyone, not just affect people with anxiety disorders.
We all react differently in stressful situations, but how you prepare yourself and fight the potential threat of mental health strain can make coping much easier (and healthier).
6 Proven Tips for Decreased Stress
The following are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended tips for ensuring you can focus a bit on self-care to stay mentally healthy in times of excessive stress.
1. Take breaks from the news
News sources that provide little more than confirmation bias can make it feel like there is no news unless it is bad news. News stories found on television, social media, newspapers, and blogs are often the source of added stress. Taking a day to unplug and decompress from the news can be a great way to reset your outlook on your own situation.
2. Mind your physical health- Take a break!
Sitting at a desk for eight hours without a break is unhealthy in any situation. It is not uncommon for people to bury themselves in their work as a form of controlling what they can. When in a state of hyper-focus, it is easy to forget to take a break.
Setting a timer to remind you to take a break is a great way to force yourself to step away from your work, take a few deep breaths, meditate, and stretch your legs. This is a great time to grab a healthy snack, take a power nap (30 minutes does wonders), or even step outside for fresh air.
Finding time to exercise is not as difficult as one might think. For example, taking a jog or walk around the block with your dog is a great mid-day exercise for you and your pet- just remember to wear a mask if you may be in contact with others! According to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/, exercise has been proven to have great lasting positive mental effects!
"Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function(2). Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal(3)."
3. Make time for “You Time”
On occasion, we need a little reminder that it’s okay to indulge in something you enjoy. Perhaps it would be a good idea to take a hot bath to unwind, read a few chapters in that book you keep meaning to get back to, or even do a bit of Yoga (if that is your thing)! Taking time when you are “off the clock” to do things you enjoy can be a great way to reset yourself, mentally.
4. Use Lists to take control of what you can and organize your thoughts
An easy way to avoid stress caused by things that are beyond your control is to utilize apps for goal setting, lists, and reminders. Setting these up forces you to think about the things you have control over and organize them in a smart, efficient (and often creative) way. Here are some of the reasons that organizing thoughts and to-dos into lists helps:
- Lists provide a little dopamine hit when you get to check something off. These small success steps can go a long way to add up to a more positive outlook.
- Lists provide a way for you to work through questions and confusions and provide a process towards a solution in a positive psychological way
- Lists help add a sense of a “lightened load” psychologically as they make tasks feel less gargantuan and more manageable
- Lists help combat procrastination and the feeling of helplessness. By creating a list of actionable items, you create steps in a plan.
- Lists help you set achievable goals
By creating a list, you create a plan. When you have a plan, you have more of a sense of what you can control. Another bonus tip is to declutter your work area. A fresh workspace can be like a breath of fresh air, psychologically.
5. Use apps to keep you moving
Fitness apps like Google Fit are a great way to track your daily activity and stay encouraged to do more. Many of us are competitive by nature. For a great challenge, ask yourself the following questions: can you get more steps in than you did yesterday? Remember how we talked about setting goals?
Setting a goal in the app for the number of steps you plan to take in the day is a great way to stay motivated to stay physically healthy. The app even has a way to track other physical activities like riding a bicycle, rowing, jogging, or hiking
Apple enthusiasts needn't worry: iOS has a recently redesigned Health app that consolidates data (including important fitness data) from all your favorite apple devices to help keep you on track.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
No matter how isolated you may feel, you are not alone. The “We’re All In This Together” tagline that many companies are using offers little comfort to those who feel truly alone.
The anxiety caused by panic disorders, specific phobias, and even undiagnosed issues can intensify feelings of deep depression. You may feel like no one could possibly understand what you’re feeling and you may even consider hurting yourself. Please remember that hurting yourself is never the answer.
Reaching out to friends or family for a bit of talking therapy can really help. Even a virtual chat or (if it’s safe) a small get-together, can be a great reminder that there are people who care about you and how you’re feeling. Support and a sense of community can help you feel re-connected can help too.
Virtual support groups, counseling, or therapy sessions are available to those in need. If you are ready to reach out and would like to talk to someone, we may be able to help.
If you or someone you care about is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.