Written by Hannah Blum, author of The Truth About Broken: The Unfixed Version of Self-Love
As someone living with bipolar disorder, I know the emotional extremes that have come with the Coronavirus Pandemic. In this blog post I share 11 ways of coping with COVID-19 and things you can do to improve your mental health and keep you busy. Although this blog post focuses on people with mental illness, it is for everyone.
Our Life With Mental Illness Can Help Others During The Pandemic
Giving is a way of coping. For those of us living with mental illness, we have an opportunity to help others handle their extreme emotions. Many people are unfamiliar with extremes, waking up consumed by anxiety, but for some of us, this has been our life. Let’s use this time to help others feel at ease.
As someone with bipolar disorder, I live in uncertainty. I have learned to accept this, but for others, it feels like the world is going to explode if they do not know what tomorrow looks like. So I make sure to reach out to others who are really struggling emotionally.
Let others know that it’s okay to feel the way that they do. Share inspirational posts about coping with your anxiety. Reach out to others and make them feel not alone. Those of us living with mental illness know what shame feels like, so let’s use this time to empower others, including ourselves.
Choose Your Conversations Wisely
Not only do we have to keep social distance but in many ways, communication distance. I have a relative who will remain nameless. I love him, but he is the “conspiracy theorist” or “the world is going to end” guy. He and I are very close, but during this time, I have cut back on the long-distance phone calls.
It’s essential that we chose which conversations we want to be a part of. Voicing your anxieties is great, but not in a way that makes other people panic. For example, my aunt and I stayed up late last night and talked about how this has been a wake-up call on so many different levels. Discussions about how we can help others. These are productive conversations.
Cope in the Way That Makes You Feel Comfortable
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people try to push their coping skills on you. During this time, I write and write, and do everything I can to create content. I am quieter. I do it indoors and outdoors but remain very close to my home. People try to force their way of coping onto me, and that is not okay.
Do not let people make you feel bad for handling this in the way that you are handling this. If you are binge-watching Netflix right now and really taking this time to be with yourself, that’s precisely what you do. If going on 8 walks a day is how you cope, work it. If distracting yourself by journaling, building something or painting, then create on.
Don’t Beat Yourself Down For Feeling The Way That You Do
If you have anxiety, depression, bipolar, or emotional extremes, do not beat yourself down for feeling the way that you do. It does you a disservice and does not help at all. If someone in your life is making you feel bad about what you are feeling and your fears, then utilize the exit. It increases shame on top of anxiety. Everyone handles these situations differently, and we should show compassion for one another.
Limit Your Time Watching The News
Stop watching so much news! When there is a school shooting or some sort of massacre, every news channel immediately concludes that this person must have mental illness. This has been the case over the last couple of years when the shootings were at a high. I watched the news relentlessly during these times. It made me scared, anxious and angry. I would have panic attacks in the middle of the night. Then something incredible happened, my TV broke, and I could not afford a new one. Boom. My anxiety about life decreased. Since then, I am at a place in my career where fortunately I can afford a TV, and although I have one now, I do not have cable.
The main thing I was taught while studying Media Communication in school is that during an event or tragedy, the news media always has an agenda, most likely a political one.
During the pandemic, we have to stay informed. Still, there is a difference between consuming information and consuming fear. I choose to read articles and research versus watching it on television.
Double Check Your Sources of Information
Someone the other day messaged me about something they read on a blog. They informed me that there is a possibility people with mental illness are less likely to get Coronavirus….yeah. When I asked the source of information, it was from some blog that had the word “pop” and “thot” in it.
Double-check your sources and make sure the information you take in is from a legitimate platform. Read detailed research about what is going on. Ask someone you know who is a doctor or nurse, or someone with a background in science.
Focus On What You Can Control, Not What You Cannot Control
We do not have control over many things going on right now. This is a trigger for many of us living with mental illness. Switch focus, because there are so many things we DO have control over.
-We have control over how we spend our time.
-We have control over how we contribute to others.
-We have control over how we handle the situation responsibly.
We have control over many things. Try to focus on what we do have instead of what we don’t have. Be grateful.
Right now, because I have a job. Other people do not, and I remind myself of that every day. Write a gratitude list, or just close your eyes and offer thanks for what you do have and not what you don’t have.
Keep a Positive Environment
No, I am not the Mother Theresa of Mental Illness. I know the whole “keep positive” can be cliche, but it is essential right now. When people ask me, “How do you remain positive with mental illness?” The answer is, “I have no other choice.” I can choose to wither, or I can choose to walk, and I choose to walk. There are days where I am not so positive and entirely out of it, but I do my best to make something out of whatever is going on. The same applies to what is happening right now during the pandemic.
Start following accounts on social media that are inspirational. There are so many advocates and activists who are sharing information about taking care of ourselves during this time.
Distance yourself from anything that is extremely negative and causing you anxiety, including people.
Keeping a positive attitude during something like this is not naive or silly, it’s progressive and smart.
Keep yourself and your environment clean.
Wash your hands, keep your home and yourself clean. To reduce my anxiety, I make sure to do everything I can to follow the guidelines. I clean my kitchen counters multiple times a day with disinfectant wipes. I quickly mop my living room floor with a Swifer every other day. When I walk in the house I take off my shoes, and if I usually change my outfit. I do not leave dirty dishes out all day and night. It’s not extreme, it’s taking precaution and doing everything I can to prevent myself and others from contracting the virus.
When you feel clean and like you are in a clean space, it eases your anxiety during the pandemic. If you were messy before it’s time for that to change. Keeping a clean home is more important now than ever.
Get in Touch With Your Mental Health Providers
Get in touch with your therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist and discuss what the protocol is during these times. Can you do therapy over the phone? How will my medication be sent to the pharmacy? Who do I contact if I have an emergency? This is all extremely important to do during the COVID-19.
I live in California, which is in lockdown, and people can only leave their homes for the essentials, including medication. The pharmacies are remaining open, but my mental health care office is shut down. Immediately I contacted them to find out what the steps are from here. I encourage you to do the same. One way to ease your anxiety during the COVID-19 is to remain on track with treatment.
Keep in mind that this is chaotic for everyone, including our doctors, right now. Be patient with them and understanding. There is a lot of pressure on them to make sure each one of their patients is stable.
This Is What You Can Do During These Times
Creating, reading, writing, doing research about a topic I am passionate about and decorating my home are a few things I am doing while in quarantine.
-Do the thing you’ve been putting off, outline the book you’ve wanted to write for years, build something, commit to reading the books in your house that haven’t been opened.
-Each morning go onto YouTube or find an app that can guide you through a meditation or yoga or anything that can center you.
-Take the online course about something you are interested in learning more about. Utilize online resources.
-Pinterest is an excellent platform for sharing inspirational and creative ideas of any sort. Whether it be home decor, tips for coping right now, mental health quotes, travel photos, or any type of content. Pinterest is a great way to share things you are passionate about without as much pressure and without having to create the posts.
-If you are looking for something to read right now, check out my book, The Truth About Broken: The Unfixed Version of Self-Love.
Most importantly, know that you are not alone. It is more important than ever that we engage with our community and those closest to you. Do not be afraid to reach out for help. Be safe and stay in.
For more content follow me @hannahdblum
In her first book, The Truth About Broken: The Unfixed Version of Self-Love, Hannah Blum redefines what it means to be broken and helps others find their way to a different type of self-love, the unfixed version of it. Through a collection of stories that will never leave your mind, inspirational quotes and the lessons taken from her journey with mental illness, readers are sure to feel empowered after reading this book.