Hello friends! Most of you reading this have probably been affected by the Coronavirus in some way – and although many of us may never actually catch the disease (God willing!) that doesn’t mean that these coming weeks are going to be easy.
The Anxious Introvert is here to offer hope to you in these difficult times, as well as a few tips on how to maintain your mental health in the midst of this chaos. Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert, we all have our challenges cut out for us in the coming weeks. In the light of all of this, here are five ways you can stay mentally well, no matter what life throws at us.
1. Make an effort to stay connected.
The term right now is “social distancing”, not “social disconnecting”. Although in the past many of us made do with our social connections coming solely from our daily routines (class, work, etc.), these days that just isn’t good enough anymore.
I know a few people personally, including myself, who are struggling with lack of human interaction, because their interactions were built into routines which no longer exist. But we all need to make an effort to reach out to our friends and family regularly, even if it’s just a five minute phone call in the middle of the day.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to do this, including Facetime and similar apps, phones, text messages, and other forms of social media. I’ve also discovered that these days, people really like letters, too. Maybe it’s not the same as what it used to be, but putting an effort into maintaining these relationships not only helps the people you’re connecting with, but yourself as well. Sometimes all we need to lift ourselves out of a funk is the face of someone we love smiling back at us, even if it’s through a screen.
If you’re like me and calling your friends and relatives is something that regularly slips your mind, then you’re going to have to work a little harder. What really helps me is that I schedule times to call my friends as I would schedule classes or meetings, and we agree to stick to that schedule. It gives us both something to look forward to – and in the end, it usually turns out to be fun.
2. Turn off the news.
Yes, stay connected. Yes, stay informed. Yes, stay smart, stay safe, and definitely know what’s going on. But that does not mean that you need the word “coronavirus” hovering around you every minute of your day.
I realized this the other day. When I am busy with my day, doing things that make me happy and being genuinely lost in my own little world, my stress levels went down significantly. But as soon as the news came back on, even though the news anchor was repeating the same five news stories I’d already heard that morning, my blood pressure went up and I nearly panicked.
I’m not saying that you need to deal with your stress by ignoring the things that stress you out. What I am saying, however, is that once you have done all that you can to stay safe, it’s time to just relax and trust in the measures put in place.
I wash my hands. I don’t go out. If I cough or sneeze, I do it into my shirt. I wash my hands again. I sanitize everything – phones, keyboards, remote controls, you name it. There is nothing else I can do short of putting myself in a panic room and having my meals pushed through a flap at the bottom of the door…and as appealing as that sounds, it’s simply not an option at the moment.
So once all of these things are done, it’s okay to turn off the news. I usually check in once or twice a day (but definitely NOT before bed) and then turn it off. Believe it or not, I’m just as informed as the people watching it all the time…the difference between us is that my blood pressure is significantly lower.
3. Set a routine and stick to it.
As someone who struggles with depression, I’ve written about routines many times before, and this probably won’t be the last.
Creating a routing is vitally important for a person’s mental health, no matter what’s going on in their lives. Some people need hour by hour, extremely detailed, extremely strict routines to feel happy and productive. Others need looser routines that give them objectives and act like guidelines throughout their day, but without a specific time limit. No matter which type of person you are (and there are many others, let’s be clear) there is empowerment in knowing that you have control over your actions in the day.
Right now, even as I’m writing this, things are changing. Students whose lives were built around school no longer have classes to attend. People are no longer going to work. Sports, concerts, gatherings, parties, you name it – it’s all been cancelled. EVERYONE’S routines are in the garbage right now, and as you can imagine, people are upset.
Adjusting is hard. I know a few people who aren’t adjusting well, and their mental health has taken a turn for the worst. It’s difficult to watch them suffer, especially because I know that creating a new routine – and sticking to it – is one of the most beneficial things you can do to stay well.
My routine is simple. I wake up (the times have been varying, but I try to get up before noon if can), I get coffee of some sort, I go for a run. If I don’t run, I work out or do yoga. I shower. I apply my skincare routine (because that’s still a thing) and I brush my teeth. I have a to-do list that I made the night before and I work my way through it at my leisure. I get happiness from crossing things off. I have a good day. At the end of the day, I watch a movie with my brother. I call my boyfriend. I play some video games. Lately, things have been okay.
Sometimes my routine gets blown up by either the other people I’m living with or by my own mental health needs. When that happens, I know that I need to put up a fight. Let me be clear: THIS IS HARD. Sometimes, I leave the news on and my mental stability goes out the window. Or I wake up late and I feel like too much of my day is gone, so why start? This happens to the best of us, my friends. And it’s okay.
The most important thing about creating a successful routine is that yes, you need to hold yourself to it as though your life depends on it – but if you fail, because we all do, don’t be afraid to start over. You are under no obligation to be perfect, even for yourself.
4. Pay attention to your physical health.
Every day, I do something physical. This could either be yoga, running, working out on my total gym, or a variation of other things which get my heart rate up. I do this because if I don’t things get bad.
Without routines, it’s easy to let normal hygiene go out the window. It’s easy to stop showering, to stop wearing clean clothes, to stop eating well. A lot of us may feel as though there isn’t any point. But let me clarify something: you don’t do all of those things for the benefit of other people. You do them for yourself.
Now, more than ever, we need to stay healthy. We need to boost our immune systems by staying clean, exercising, and eating well. This not only protects us from whatever diseases are waiting for us out there, but it tricks our brains into thinking that we are operating business as usual. It creates a sense of normalcy, which helps us to feel better both physically and emotionally.
5. Don’t give up.
This won’t last forever. I won’t be delusional and say that it will be over tomorrow, because I have no idea how long this will last, but I refuse to believe that this is the new normal.
The world we see at the end of this crisis will not be the one we remember from the beginning of it, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a good one. Maybe it will be a cleaner, safer world. Maybe our hospitals and healthcare will improve. Maybe global communications will improve. Maybe politics will improve.
But on a much smaller level, so many other things are improving, too.
I’ve noticed, for the first time in my life, how much so many things mean to me. I miss so many people, so many stores, so many functions and events that used to be a part of my daily life. I had never imagined that I might have to live in a world without them. This has been a rude awakening to everything I have taken for granted, but in a way, I’m grateful that it happened while I still have a chance to make a change for the better.
I feel like Scrooge waking up on Christmas morning, to find that he hasn’t died and that he’s been given a second chance. Yes, this is scary, and yes, this is very much real. But we have a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see just how much we have truly been blessed.
So don’t give up, my precious friends. Things are hard. They might get worse. But I firmly believe that God gives His hardest battles to His toughest soldiers – and we are not alone in this. He is working, and He has equipped us with everything we need to fight this battle and win.
I hope that this gives you hope, and that you all stay safe and well. Take care, everyone. You’re in my prayers.