Practicing Self-Care During Stressful Times

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress and anxiety for almost all of us, whether we’re on the front lines in healthcare, adjusting to working and schooling from home, worrying about our financial situation, or feeling concerned about ourselves or our loved ones contracting the virus. For those already struggling with mental illness, the closing of community supports, sudden and drastic change in routine, and isolation from loved ones can make coping even more difficult.

In times like these, practicing good self-care is of critical importance. If you take prescription medication to manage your condition, continue taking it, and be aware of any new or worsening symptoms. In addition, keep in touch with your mental health providers. Mental health is considered an essential service under the governor’s stay-at-home order, and many providers offer appointments via video or telephone. Contact your provider for more information on how they can best serve you during this time.

In addition to maintaining your mental health regimen, here are a few practical tips we’ve put together to help you through this uncertain time.

1. Get Dressed.

If you’re unemployed, furloughed, or working from home, it may be tempting to remain in pajamas all day. However, studies have shown that continuing to shower and dress as though you were going to work helps give you a sense of purpose and increases your motivation to accomplish whatever tasks your day holds. If you’ve been living in your comfies, try getting dressed and see if it improves your outlook!

2. Create a Schedule.

Organizing your time, whether it’s by the day or by the week, helps create structure at a time when external structure may be lacking. Making a schedule allows you to prioritize what’s important, including taking care of your physical and mental health, along with any tasks you may have for maintaining your household, working from home, or helping children with school.

3. Go Outside.

Study after study has shown that being outside, whether it’s for a run, a bike ride, a walk, or simply sitting and enjoying nature, has a myriad of benefits for both physical and mental health. Going outdoors has been proven to reduce inflammation, eliminate fatigue, ease depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and even boost the immune system! If you’re feeling down in the dumps, go for a walk around the block and see if it doesn’t help you feel just a bit better.

4. Be Intentional.

This period of time is unlike any we’ve ever had before, and that presents some unique opportunities. If you’ve found yourself with extra time on your hands, now is the perfect chance for you to learn a new skill or polish an existing one. Dust off those old piano books, learn a new language, draw a picture, challenge yourself to read a certain number of novels, watch all the movies that have starred your favorite actor, or participate in an online fitness course. The spark of discovery will help get you through this trying time, and the new things you learn just might come in handy when life looks closer to normal.

5. Limit news and social media consumption.

While it’s helpful to remain informed, too much time reading news or social media can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. Choose one or two reliable sources for information and stick to those, rather than endlessly watching or scrolling through news. Social media can be tricky, because it’s our main way to stay connected right now, but can also be a source of misinformation and a potential trigger for anxiety. Utilize the “mute” or “unfollow” features various platforms provide if specific people, words, or topics upset you. Or try setting a timer for fifteen or twenty minutes a couple times a day and check in with social media only during those allotted times.

6. Be a helper.

Although our options are limited by social distancing requirements, there are still plenty of creative ways to reach out to others. Sewing face masks, checking on an elderly neighbor, donating to a local food pantry or other charitable organization, or even chalking an inspirational message on your driveway can help someone else. An added bonus is that it forces you to think beyond yourself and your current circumstances, and can boost your own mood, too.

7. Spread Out.

If you’re cooped up with roommates or relatives, plan times to do things together, as well as times for all of you to spread out and have some personal time alone. An appropriate balance between togetherness and alone time can relieve the monotony of being together under the same roof and can benefit everyone’s mental state.

Shift Your Mental Space. Although the COVID-19 outbreak comes with plenty of frustration, stress, and uncertainty, it also presents a unique opportunity for us all to slow down and focus on what really matters. Look for positive things happening in the world around you, keep a journal, or make a list of unique experiences you’ve had. Remember that although this time feels like it may last forever, it is in fact temporary. Keeping your focus on the positive will help you get through the more challenging aspects of this season.

Now more than ever, it’s important to remain connected to your social support network and take good care of yourself, both physically and mentally. If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed with sadness, anxiety, or depression, or if you feel the urge to harm yourself or others:

  • Call 911
  • Call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 and TTY 1-800-846-7517, or text TalkWithUs to 66746
  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224
  • Call us here at Breakthrough at (316) 269-4160

If you’d like more information about how to take care of yourself during this time, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has released a free COVID-19 Information and Resource Guide, filled with more great information and tips.

Remember, you’re not alone. We’re here to help you through this time of uncertainty. Though for now we must stay apart, we will still get through this together.


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