Pandemic and Mental Illness

Pandemic.

Just the word ignites panic, fear, and doubts. For someone who struggles with mental illness or even chronic illness, that word also brings havoc to mental health.

As someone who struggles with anxiety disorders and even diagnosed subclinical OCD, I ask that you PLEASE be patient with us. Whether you are concerned about the virus or you are one who thinks it’s all a hoax, the threat can be very real in our minds. Not only that but whether we want to or not, our minds may constantly be racing with thoughts pertaining to the pandemic. Sure, limiting exposure to media is helpful to a degree but there is still evidence of the pandemic everywhere you go.

I have noticed myself developing obsessive behaviors and thought patterns surrounding the pandemic. I read article after article, watch video after video, and can’t help but do mental checklists constantly to ensure that I am healthy and safe. I struggle with medical/health anxiety as it is, and THIS has made it flare up even worse. I constantly want to check my temperature to make sure that I’m in a safe range, and I’m becoming scared to leave my house. These are things we SHOULD be concerned about given the current state of things, but when it becomes obsessive and the only thing your mind can think about, it’s damaging.

I’ve already been over cautious and scared of the coronavirus, but when you see that every single store is completely out of essentials, it only makes the anxiety worse. So please stop hoarding things if you don’t actually need them. I’m one of those people that likes to be prepared for any situation, I’m what some may call an over-packer. To see all of these items completely wiped out can be terrifying. My mind then races with all of the “what if” scenarios, and it can become debilitating if I let it.

So to all of my fellow people out there struggling with their mental health in this crisis, here are the ways I’m trying to get through it that might be of help for you too.

  1. Pray.
    1. Whether you are a follower of Christ or not, praying to your higher power can bring so much peace. To know that I don’t have control over anything is scary, but to know that God is in control eases my mind and body. My spiritual walk is a rollercoaster, some days are better than others, but knowing that I am still loved by God brings comfort and ease of mind.
  2. Rest.
    1. Rest has been exceptionally challenging for me in the past 2 months as I have not been sleeping well. Rest is CRUCIAL for not only your physical health but your mental health too. When I don’t get enough good rest, my anxiety and depression are two-fold. Do your best to get enough sleep.
  3. Get outside.
    1. I’ve discovered in the past 6 months that getting outside and taking a walk, helps me tremendously. It helps me to clear my head, focus in prayer, and get the excess adrenaline out of my system. Not to mention the fresh air and sunshine (when the sun is out), is super uplifting.
  4. Keep a Normal Routine.
    1. If there is anything I learned in my 2 months off of work for IOP, it’s that keeping a normal daily routine is very important. If you’re off work or school for an extended period, like I am now, keeping a normal routine will be vital to keeping your sanity. Get up at a decent time, shower, get dressed, get ready for the day even if you’ll be at home with nowhere to go. Just doing those simple tasks, can make the world of difference to how you feel physically and mentally. Of course, it’s important to take some days here and there to stay in your pajamas and watch movies, but if you can keep some structure to your days, it will help tremendously with your mental health.
  5. Reach Out.
    1. I hate that the media is throwing around the term “isolation”. We are so fortunate to live in a time where the people we love are just a text message or video chat away, no matter the distance. Social distancing is important and crucial to keep the virus from spreading, yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have valuable connections with those we care about. Text, call, dm, or video chat the people you care about and talk about something unrelated to the pandemic at hand. Yes, expressing our concerns and fears with others is important for our mental health, but don’t let the conversations be solely about that topic.
  6. Have Some Fun.
    1. If I’m going to be distanced socially from others, and I’m having to stay home out of work for four weeks, I’m going to have to get creative and make things fun. Don’t let boredom overcome you, as I often allow it to overcome me. I plan to take some time to read, watch movies and tv shows, write, and play way more hours of The Sims 4 than I care to admit. Allow yourself space to have some fun. Watch a funny show or movie, play a video game or board game, read that book that’s been on your shelf for years, learn a new talent. There are so many possibilities and I’m excited about all of them.

Those are just some of the things I plan to implement in my time off of work during this crazy pandemic, and I hope it can be helpful for others out there who are struggling with their mental health during this time too.

If you are someone who is blessed to be in a good place mentally right now, then please make sure to reach out to those you know who may be struggling. Sometimes when our mental health is suffering, we do isolate. Reach out to us. Offer encouragement, support, and a listening ear. But most importantly, have patience. Our fears, thoughts and even behaviors may seem irrational and over the top, to you, but to us they are very real. Have compassion and patience. But also know how and when to give us a good dose of reality too. It’s a scary world we live in, especially now. We all need each other.

If you have any other ideas for making this time off of work even better, or you just want to share how you are dealing with this pandemic, feel free to share them with me! Stay safe and healthy! Thank you for reading my rambles.

iocdf.org/covid19

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