Coping with COVID-19 When You Have a Mental Health Condition
Here are seven practical suggestions to help you cope with COVID-19 if you have a mental health condition.
Not much is known about COVID-19 at this point, which understandably causes fear and distress especially for us who have anxiety related conditions.
Amidst the panic-buying (a.k.a. toilet paper hoarding) and frequent handwashing, we think this is a good time to hit the pause button and remind ourselves that resilience and hope (even humour!) can be just as contagious.
We can rise above the chaos. Here are seven practical suggestions to empower ourselves:
1. Write down what you can and cannot control. Fear and anxiety are natural responses to the unknown. Journal your thoughts and see what are the things you can change and what are those you can’t. For example, we can’t confront every person who doesn’t cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, but we can walk away from them and keep a safe distance.
2. Do not skip your medical appointments. Consult your doctor to see if your appointments can be rearranged; whether it’s possible to meet less frequently, or if there are other ways to have your sessions without meeting physically. Another way to minimise exposure each time you visit the hospital or clinic is to align your medical appointments on one day if possible, or have them less frequently according to your doctor’s advice.
3. Ask if your medication can be delivered instead of collected in person. Hospitals and polyclinics under Singhealth offers this option. Some hospitals like Khoo Teck Puat hospital have a Medibox which functions like a parcel delivery locker that allows you to collect your medication refills at your own time, so you need not wait at the hospital pharmacy with the crowd.
4. Limit your exposure to media and yes, that includes muting family chat groups that spread well-meaning but also fear-mongering fake news. Get your information from reputable sources, be updated once or twice a day, and then fill the rest of your day with other meaningful activities.
5. There are many of us who feel the need to wash our hands frequently which can trigger anxiety-driven compulsions and obsessive behaviour. If possible, we could use this as an opportunity to practise personal self-care in a mindful, compassionate way. Take a warm shower at the end of each day before bedtime. Be present in the moment and gently massage your fingers, joints as you wash your hands. Keeping clean and hygienic doesn’t have to be a chore. Other ways of caring for ourselves include having a balanced diet, some exercise and adequate sleep. Participate in relaxing activities like deep breathing or hobbies like gardening to boost our immunity.
6. Social distancing does not mean social isolation. Reach out and check in regularly with people you care about. Make that phone call, or even video calls using Facetime and Skype. Or send a text or whatsapp. Be part of social media community groups. There are also groups that screen livestream events on Youtube and social media platforms. Gaming communities, Reddit are also other social ways of connecting with others. So even though we may all be keeping physical social distance, we can still connect with one another online in virtual spaces.
7. There is online help such as counselling hotlines, chats, emails. We have a comprehensive directory here. Remember, you don’t have to go at this alone. Help is available.
As persons with mental health conditions, we are familiar with the battles in our minds. There aren’t any easy solutions, but we are much stronger than we realise. We have already overcome so much in our lives, and likewise, we shall also get through this, one day at a time. Rooting for us all!
Nicole K heads up The Tapestry Project SG, an independent, not-for-profit online publication that champions mental health recovery through the power of first-person stories. This voluntary ground-up initiative is run by persons-in-recovery who share a passion for mental health awareness, education and empowerment. Their stories are written by, and for persons who are touched by the realities of mental health challenges.
Our Better World is grateful to Nicole and The Tapestry Project SG for giving us permission to re-publish this story as part of our series on Mental Health, Silent No More: Giving Voice to Mental Illness.