Amid recent guidelines and recommendations made by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Andy Beshear for people to work from home and practice social distancing due to COVID-19 comes the concern of everyone’s mental health.
Thursday, the Pennyroyal Center gave tips on how to protect your mental health as well as reduce stress and anxiety as everyone works to reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ashley Boze, licensed clinical social worker and director of substance abuse at the Pennyroyal Center, said many are worrying about the dangers of COVID-19.
“Some of the stresses that can be associated with a time period like this is worrying about your own health and the health of your loved ones,” Boze said.
“Other stresses can be changes in your sleep pattern or eating, not eating enough, overeating, difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Stress can exacerbate those things. There’s a lot of things that can happen as part of as stress rises during this time.”
Dealing with high stress and anxietyBoze encourages those who are high-stress and anxious over the concerns of the coronavirus to take breaks from watching national news, reading articles on social media regarding the virus (especially as they may not be factually accurate) and from social media as a whole.
Boze shared that reading a lot about the virus can cause additional stress and anxiety as it can become obsessive or people may be adding to false facts and it can lead to being exposed to too much information.
She also encourages taking care of your body’s health by exercising, eating healthy, resting, practicing mindfulness and watching the amount that you drink alcohol or smoke.
Boze said that during stressful times, some people tend to overeat or not enough as a way of coping with stress. However, eating healthy, well-balanced and nutritious meals helps your body stay healthy and helps fight stress during high-stress times.
She also encouraged exercising for the same reason. While some are choosing to self-quarantine and practice social distancing, that does not mean you cannot go outside at all. Boze, in fact, recommends it, as long as there is social distancing.
She recommended walks in the neighborhood, doing body-weight exercises, yoga and anything that keeps the body moving.
Boze said just finding time to be outside can be healthy during times of self-quarantine.
“Have some time outside, even if it’s just sitting under a covered porch and being able to take in some fresh air,” she said.
Getting adequate sleep and rest is also important to mental health.
To ensure that you can get good sleep, Boze said set a time at night to turn off social media and TV.
Some individuals may use substances as a way of coping with stress; however, it’s not a healthy coping mechanism.
“We encourage people to avoid the use of alcohol and other drugs during this time, just because during times of stress it’s easier to drink more as a coping skill, but really it’s not coping with anything,” Boze said. “It’s actually creating more of a problem.”
Whether, you are working from home or simply practicing social distancing, it can be important to still find social interaction to protect mental health.
Boze suggested to call, text or video chat friends, family or even coworkers to keep up social interaction where you would normally by simply going out to places or to work.
Tips for working at home during quarantineAs recommended by both the CDC and Beshear, many of those who have the ability have begun working their jobs from home as they try to limit exposure to COVID-19.
Working from home can cause some people to lose productivity or struggle with depression and energy levels as some thrive on daily routines or some thrive on social interaction.
For those individuals, Boze suggested creating a new routine that can be done in and around the home.
Establishing or scheduling break times while working from home gives a time to step away from the stress of work.
Boze said that depending on the company, employees can schedule work time throughout the day or doing a full work block.
“I think a lot of this, too, has to do with people who have children at home and now have to work at home,” Boze said.
“So, you have this stress of doing both, and I think there’s truly this acceptance of ‘What can I do?’ Communicating that with your employer when you’ve got those limitations is important.”
With that, she recommended scheduling a time to care for your kids and balance workload. Boze also said to call or video chat with coworkers.
“I think it’s really focusing on adapting to a new routine. So, business is probably still going to be in place, but it’s going to look different,” Boze said.
While working at home, it’s also important to consider where in the home you are working. Working from places that are comfortable, like a bed, isn’t recommended as it lowers productivity and motivation, Boze suggested.
Instead, she said to establish an area in the home to work from. Whether that be a desk in the home or the kitchen table. That way, she said, you can stay motivated knowing you are in a spot specifically dedicated to working.
“I would (suggest) setting goals. We know the tasks we have to complete, so setting goals,” Boze said. “For example, maybe ‘Before lunch I’m going to accomplish x, y, z. I might take a couple breaks in between there and I’m going to accomplish that by lunch.’ ”
During this time of social distancing, working from home and self-quarantine as everyone tries to prepare and reduce the spread of COVID-19, Boze said it’s important to protect your mental health and ensure that you stay healthy in both mind and body.
“Mental health is imperative, because during times like these there is a lot of uncertainty and that fear and anxiety can escalate during these times,” Boze said. “If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, the more that you keep it inside, the more anxious, stressed and worried you’re going to become.”
If you are worried about your mental health and are seeking guidance, you can call the Pennyroyal hotline at 1-877-473-7766 or text “RESPOND” to 839-863 if you are 18 and older. If you are 18 and under, you can text CONFIDE to 839-863.