Nine Tips for Looking After Your Mental Health During the Pandemic

Texas Psychological Association offers resources, urges people to stay connected

The COVID-19 pandemic comes with plenty of opportunities to get stressed. Texans are self-quarantining, homeschooling, and working from home.

Some face job losses, underemployment, or other financial hardships.

Bonny Gardner

Maintaining good mental health is as vital and challenging as ever.

“Fear, worry, and stress are a normal response to a perceived or real threat or when there is a need for rapid changes in our lives and new ways of coping,” said Texas Psychological Association member Bonny Gardner, Ph.D., M.P.H., a licensed psychologist in Austin. “People may feel a loss of control over their lives, which research has shown can make them more vulnerable to mental health problems.”

The association, which represents more than 1,000 practicing psychologists and graduate students in Texas, is offering Texans practical advice and online resources to support their mental health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even when stress is overwhelming, there is no need to struggle alone.”

Bonny Gardner

Some general recommendations for maintaining good emotional health during the pandemic:

Maintain social connections to others and the broader community. Use phone, Zoom, social media, email, or old-fashioned letter writing.

Stay informed about the impact of the virus but be sure that your sources of information are credible and legitimate. Limit watching the news about the virus to once or twice a day. Too much news coverage can lead to fear-inducing thinking.

Establish a regular schedule for yourself, even if you’re not required to be anywhere. Get up, shower, get dressed, and have a plan for your day.

Include exercise in every day. Exercise has repeatedly been shown in research to be about as effective as antidepressants in reducing depressive symptoms. Walking outside is great if you can observe necessary precautions.

Get enough sleep every night and have a firm bedtime. Sleep is essential to mental health and helps maintain physical health and the immune system.

Engage in self-care. Do things you enjoy. There are endless opportunities for new pursuits: If you’re artistic, paint or draw. Learn a language, read, cook, engage in woodworking or gardening, or any other activity you’ve thought might be fun. Research on depression has shown that enjoyable activities reduce depressive symptoms.

Don’t rely on alcohol or recreational drugs to cope with stress or regulate your mood.

Look for hopeful stories about people helping one another during the pandemic and contribute to volunteer efforts or charities if you can.

For ongoing concerns and more complex mental health issues, reach out to primary care physicians as well as psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals.

“Now more than ever, we need to focus on ways to stay connected as a community and remain hopeful in the face of the pandemic,” Gardner said. “Even when stress is overwhelming, there is no need to struggle alone.”

Help Online: The Texas Psychological Association’s COVID-19 Resource Page – texaspsyc.org/page/Covid19 | Mental Health America’s screening tool – screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools


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