A recipe for mental health and wellness: coping with effects of Covid-19 

by Leo. D Edwards MSW, RSW PhDc
Registered social worker, clinical therapist and academic

It is no secret that we are currently living in an extraordinary period of global uncertainty and this has evoked in many a range of emotions from anxiousness, stress, worries, anger, helplessness, frustration and loneliness. It is important to note that it is completely normal to experience a full and wide range of emotions, and it does not mean that you are defected, weak or that you are overacting or underacting to this pandemic.

People respond to and deal with uncertainty and trauma differently. What we can agree on is that as a global community we are experiencing all kinds of loss or grief. Some of us are grieving the loss of friends, family, work and routine, etc. How then do we deal with this current experience of loss, grief or stress? How do we reduce the emotional and psychosocial impact of Covid-19 aka the Coronavirus?

Consider this recipe and feel free to adapt to fit your lifestyle or situation.

A full portion of acceptance – Accepting your emotions and feelings is an important ingredient to mental wellness. The simple act of naming and welcoming your emotions/feelings even the ones we prefer to go away such as loneliness, sadness and anxiety can bring to our awareness, knowing that they will only be present for a temporary period of time and may have something to teach us. Remember: it is okay to feel distress and uncertainty. Accepting those experiences is often the quickest way to feel immediately calmer.

Limited serving of information (diet) – Uncertainty can give rise to sensationalism, speculation and all kinds of conspiracy theories. Anxiety and worry can certainly be fueled by consuming this kind of information. To reduce your anxiety or worry it would be vital that you are more aware and take full control over the information you are consuming. Ask yourself where are you getting your current information? What are the key facts about Covid-19? Is it a trusted and credible site? I will also suggest a blend of other and more inspiring news to balance your information diet. Remember: to bring an intentional mindset to unplugging your electronics, turning off your notifications on your cellphones and instead do something fun and healthy for yourself.

You can take as many handfuls of self-care as possible, you decide (no limits on this ingredient)

Sleep – If possible, go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Try as best as you can to stick close to your typical schedule, even if you are staying at home.

Participate in regular physical activity – Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Find an activity that includes movement, such as walking or dancing. Put on your favourite song, maybe it is a soca song. Dance, whine, palance, just enjoy yourself!

Make music – Research has shown that music has profound effects on our body and psyche and can bring relaxation and give energy when we are feeling drained. Rather than just listening, which of course is helpful, I also encourage you to make music. Grab a bucket, a pan, maybe an old cooking pot and make and enjoy the sounds you are hearing. Stay in the present moment.

Eat healthy-Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. You cannot go wrong with much more fruits and vegetables.

If you can, avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs – It increases your risk for lung disease and using alcohol to try to cope can make matters worse; reducing your coping capabilities.

Breathing exercises to reduce stress or anxiety, or improve your lung function – Check out YouTube for a guided demonstration. You may find that certain exercises appeal to you right away. Start with those so that the practice is more enjoyable.

Grounding technique (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) – once you find your breath, go through the following steps to help ground yourself

5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you…

4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you…

3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear…

2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell…

1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste.

Remember: to use the strategies/ ingredients that appeal to you, some may not fit well with your palate and that is okay, be kind with yourself and try out something else.

Faith to your taste – For many in our communities, faith and prayers are very important, and indeed can provide a space for comfort, hope and direction. Many faith groups are pillars of strength in communities and may have a beneficial role around healing, encouraging and supporting many as we experience this pandemic.

Remember: that while faith and prayer can bring much needed psychological and spiritual wellbeing that it is equally important to remain practical in our fight against Covid-19 such as washing our hands and following the physical distancing recommendations.

Many servings of community in BIG bowls – There is a saying “no man is an island and no man stands alone”. It is critical in these times that we take care of each other’s emotional, social and mental health. We should do something for others intentionally. For example, text, WhatsApp or call your friends, family members or your neighbours especially those that are most valuable. The elderly – send them food, ask if they need help with an errand, do something for someone – you will feel better. Remember: It can be helpful to connect with people who are a positive influence when you are feeling stressed. Reach out to these people, reach out and get support from these people through phone or video calls or text messaging.

Remember: to take whatever ingredient you want from this recipe and this too shall pass, the world is not ending and we are in this together. Take care of yourself and each other!

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