Strength, compassion and self-care to go through the pandemic

Kuva: Charles Deluvio / Unsplash

How to manage and react to the stressful and rapidly changing COVID-19 crisis in our lives? The issue everyone one of us is facing is how we manage and react to the stressful and rapidly changing situation in our lives and in our society.

We need to channel our energy into the resourceful powers of strength, compassion, and cooperation that we all possess as humans. We must try tapping into that strength present in all of us in order to respond effectively to this crisis as individuals, family, friends, colleagues and society.

Here are some tips for you to support your emotional and mental wellbeing during self-quarantine. But first, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you do possess tools and strengths to get through this.

Recognize your waves of feelings

According to The University of Melbourne psychology professor Lea Waters, the current situation can affect three areas of our emotional wellbeing: our sense of autonomy, a sense of being connected with others, and feeling effective.

Everyone is going through waves of feelings. It is hard not to…

Our anxiety level can go up to the roof to some of us. For some, it is causing widespread concern, fear and stress. For others it is feeling of anger, anger with people who are stockpiling food, toilet papers, or not staying home. Feelings such as fear, loneliness and boredom arise.

As you notice emotions, stress or tension, take a break and a deep breath. Then try to identify whatever you feel, and to accept your feelings. Recognition and acceptance helps alleviating your emotions and stress.

Establish a routine

It is important to establish a routine during these unusual times. It can be tempting to sit in your pyjamas on the couch for few weeks or longer watching Netflix, but on the long run, this sedentary behavior will affect your wellbeing. When you have a routine in place, you will feel more in control of your situation and life will not feel quite as chaotic.

Setting up a regular routine even under these current circumstances will keep you motivated, and more disciplined. It will boost your confidence, and sense of purpose. Make a list of things that you can do during this time, and things that you cannot. Also, consider the following when making your routine:
•    work
•    physical activity
•    relationships and staying connected
•    self-care: My own ”ME moments”

Too overwhelming? … Pause

When it is too overwhelming and nothing seems to work, practice pause and ask yourself: “How am I doing? What do I need in this moment?”

Again, take a break and pause … take a long slow deep breath in and out. Acknowledge what you are feeling in that moment without judgment. Identify the things that you can control, that are within your reach. Identify your own strengths and redirect your focus on what you can achieve in the present moment. Determine the things you cannot control and let them be for now.

Introducing a mindfulness practice can help you calm your anxiety, stay focused and build good coping skills.

Every night before going to bed, write down three things that went well today, and why they went well.

We are often our own worst critic, and it is important to remember to be kind and forgiving with ourselves.

In this short video, psychiatrist Elizabeth Guinto takes these easy steps for a well-deserved self-compassion break: Link to the video in YouTube

Do things that make you feel good

Time slows down, and it is often at that time that we start recognizing the small things; moments that make us feel good. Identify what that could be for you. A mandatory cup of tea with a delicious homemade cinnamon bun while enjoying the spring sunshine from your window or your garden. Bottom line, indulge and enjoy the little moments.

Stay active and keep moving

Yes … Gyms, yoga studios, and other sport clubs are closed. However, remember to keep moving. You can still exercise even if you are staying home. If you are physically healthy, staying active is critical to boost your mood and to give you energy.

Here are additional tips to avoid sedentary behavior:
•    Take short breaks: put some music on and dance for few minutes, do short exercises such as jumping jacks or going up the stairs, play with your children, go for a walk in the park if you are allowed,
•    Walk in the house even if it is a small space
•    Doing some house activities such as cleaning, cooking or gardening are also good ways to stay active.
•    Take advantage of online workout classes available during this time, including free online sessions. However, be aware of injuries if you have no previous experience.
•    If you have a partner or children, get them onboard and enjoy a creative and playful exercise together
•    For deep relaxations, and to improve your sleep check out some videos in various languages from Mental Health Finland
 

Get off the grid

Limit your exposure to social media and news. The flooding of news on COVID and its impact can be overwhelming. The additional impact has also been the flooding of various live videos popping up, zoom events, online classes.

While switching to online events and activities are amazing and keeping businesses alive, make sure to stick to a balanced routine with clear priorities. Avoid getting overly stimulated and remember to take breaks in between conference calls and other online events. As for news and social media, try to keep your exposure to once or twice a day and focus on other activities.

Eat Healthy

Good nutrition is crucial for health, even more during these times when the immune system might need to fight back.
•    With more free time in hand, it is an opportunity to try out delicious healthy recipes on your own or with your family. Whenever possible, focus on using fresh seasonal products and reduce consumption of processed food, as they tend to be high in fats, sugar and salt.
•    Stay hydrated, and avoid drinking too much coffee, tea and especially soft drinks. These may lead to dehydration and can have a negative impact on your sleep.
•    If you do not feel like cooking, the good news is that cafes and restaurants are now switching to take away and even home deliveries.
•    Avoid panic buying behavior, and be mindful of your own needs as well as those of others.

Avoid alcohol or reduce its consumption

It is rather common to believe that alcohol can help you relax. However, alcohol consumption is not a stress coping mechanism.

As the current situation can already be quite overwhelming, WHO advises to avoid consumption of alcohol. As a psychoactive substance, alcohol has negative effect on the mental health. It can increase symptoms of depression, anxiety, fear and panic, which can intensify during self-quarantine (WHO).

Alcohol also weakens your immune system, and according to WHO alcohol use and especially heavy use undermines your body’s ability to cope with infectious disease, including COVID-19.

Social distancing and family life

Social distancing during the pandemic means that many of us are spending more time with our partner and family at home. This can be a challenge but also an opportunity to reconnect.

Start by having an open talk with your family and together establish home living rules. Discuss concerns, and expectations, what strengths each individual has that can help cope with the situation. Agree to be truthful, to listen to each other’s concerns, fears and whenever there is tension, try to de-escalate it early on.

Respect each other’s space

Give and respect each other’s space. This can be challenging for a family during intense time.
•    Try to create small zones or spaces in the house. For instance a game zone, a chill out corner where one is allowed to sit in silence or meditate.
•    Respect each other’s time alone, while at the same time create moments to reconnect with the family. For instance, establish family meal rituals by eating together.
•    Involve children in cooking healthy meal. This can help them acquire important life skills and it is an opportunity to strengthen family relationships
•    If there is a ”happy hour”, how about introducing ”venting hour” in your family? It can be a short session during which each family member has a safe space to air and express concerns, and to avoid keeping negative emotions inside.

Do you need urgent help?

If you feel your emotional wellbeing is getting worse or know someone else who needs support, call our Crisis Support Line available in Finnish, Swedish, English and Arabic. All calls are free, anonymous and confidential.

Help and support for foreigners

Mieli Ry, Finnish Mental Health Association is currently conducting a survey to map the impact of COVID-19 on mental health among the foreign community in Finland. The survey is currently available in English, Arabic, Turkish, Finnish, and Russian.

Please take the survey if you are based in Finland and identify yourself as a foreigner or a Finnish with foreign background. Thank you in advance for your contribution!

 

Contacts

Leila El Krekshi
Project Officer
MIOS-Project, Mental health and well-being in multicultural Finland

+358 40 776 0486Maistraatinportti 4 A, 7th floor, 00240 Helsinki, Finland