The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an abrupt change for millions around the world. Social distancing, economic concerns, and overall physical well-being can lead to mental health issues.
April L. Stallworth, LPC, Ed.D, LSSBB, the vice president of programs and services with the Bobby Dodd Institute, has over 20 years of experience as a clinician and educator on trauma and crisis management.
Dr. Stallworth shares five ways to guard your mental health during COVID-19 pandemic.
Give yourself time to adjust
“It’s important to give yourself the time to make an adjustment. This is a new normal, and you have to give yourself freedom and time to make the adjustment. I’m adjusting to a new normal. Our external resources in our life, such as school and work, they give us our routine. So now you are the one who is responsible for making a routine. I think it’s extremely important for everybody to make a routine every day.”
If you’re alone, stay connected
“The best thing about having the internet and social media is that we have so many apps to help us stay connected. We’re social beings who thrive off communication and interaction. We have to come up with new and novel ways to communicate with people. I think that we have to be careful about our fear. Be socially distant, but do not socially isolate or eliminate your relationships.”
Educate yourself on COVID-19 without becoming overwhelmed
“At some point, you have to turn off the TV and manage your social media interactions that are focused solely on COVID-19. You have to watch in moderation. If you’re going to listen to the news for 30 minutes in the morning, make that part of your routine. But don’t listen to it all day, every day. Information can help to reduce anxiety, but it has to be the correct information in limited doses. I’m concerned, but I’m not afraid of what’s happening just based on the information that I’ve acquired.”
Understand that your lifestyle may change
“You have to accept that life is changing and be OK with the emotions that you have about it. You should articulate how you feel by writing it down and just taking everything one day and one objective at a time. Typically, we try to solve every problem during a crisis all at once. And that’s when we get overwhelmed emotionally. You should ask yourself, ‘What can I accomplish each day?’ Identify objectives toward your goal versus trying to complete your entire goal on Monday. And then verbalize how you feel. Say it out loud, put it in a journal, identify your areas and then be knowledgeable.”
“At the end of this, the general public will want to process what happened and people will be concerned about going forward. Some people will have to go to a whole different normal. Right now, people are having difficulty processing. It’s traumatizing for a lot of people. After this, we will develop a workshop where people can process. This is unprecedented for America.”