Written by Genevieve Kung, Registered Psychologist (Australia)
As the number of COVID-19 infections rises across the globe, it is hardly surprising that our mental health has also increasingly taken a toll. Anxieties are elevated as there are many uncertainties at this point, and life as we know it has seemed to change indefinitely in recent months.
Here in South Korea, people have had to wear masks when out in public, schools have been closed, and students have had to switch to online learning. Businesses and companies have also had to implement work-from-home policies in order to slow the spread of the disease through safe and physical distancing. Considering this, most of us have been staying home and limiting our social contact for an extended period of time. Without a clear end in sight, it is normal that our general moods and wellbeing have gone down over time.
This post provides some helpful strategies to combat low moods due to COVID-19 as we adjust to a new normal.
We are constantly being bombarded with information about COVID-19. We hear it on the news, we hear it on the streets, we also get a dozen notifications on our devices, every day. At times, it can seem like COVID-19 is all consuming and ever present on our minds. This is natural, as it is an important issue. We’re concerned and we want to keep abreast of the situation.
However, it also follows that our moods can be negatively impacted by all the information that we are constantly and at times intrusively taking in. By limiting our exposure to COVID-19 related news and talk and focusing on other things, such as self-care, spending time with family, or doing work, we can moderate our low moods and give ourselves a break. For instance, set a time every day to ‘clock-out’ on COVID-19 news (e.g. 1pm every day). There is no FOMO (fear of missing out) as the news still will be there tomorrow. What might be a good ‘clock-out’ time for you?
News and social media feeds are saturated with negative information about COVID-19 around the world. However, it is important to remember that throughout history, wherever there was calamity, there were also inevitably, stories of hope. Communities have come together more often than not and helped one another for the greater good. This situation with COVID-19 is no different. By being deliberate and conscious in looking for these stories of people doing good, and of hope, we can maintain a balanced view of things.
The algorithms on social media are designed to bring up more of the content that we view/click on. In this situation, it makes negative news easier to access. Our brain functions in a similar way. The more we focus our attention on the negative, the more our brain becomes hardwired to seek out negative information, which makes it easier for the bad stuff to catch our attention. This is how sometimes we have trouble in coming out of our low moods. By consciously tuning our focus to good news, we are helping our brain to be balanced in the type of information it gives its attention to. What are some stories of good or hope that you have come across? These are some of our favorites.
One of the biggest consequences to protecting ourselves and others from COVID-19 is the changes to our lifestyle. Having to limit our physical social interactions, not being able to go to places of entertainment, school closures, and working remotely from home etc., can give us the sense that we are losing control.
However, contributing to the community, even in small ways, can be empowering in the global fight against COVID-19 and help to balance out low moods. Donate to your local food bank, help your elderly neighbor navigate shopping for groceries online so that they don’t have to go to the store, or purchase gift cards from your local small businesses to help them stay afloat (you can use them after physical distancing restrictions have passed). What are some ways that you can give back? What are some ways that you can show #covidkindness? Remember they don’t have to be big ideas; little things go a long way too.
Dress up for the mental space that you want to be in. Routines and structures help us to regulate our mood by keeping ourselves busy, giving ourselves something to look forward to, and by providing us with a sense of predictability. If you are working from home, separate your workspace from your resting space and keep to specific hours for work. If you are staying at home for physical distancing/self-isolating, wake up and go to bed at the same time daily, schedule time to do some light exercises to keep active, keep to regular meal times, and aim to have a variety of activities throughout your day. What does your #stayhome routine look like?
Looking after ourselves is important to maintain a healthy frame-of-mind, particularly in this situation. Some examples of self-care include: taking time to do activities that you enjoy, working out at home, scheduling regular breaks, keeping up with healthy eating, maintaining a regular schedule if you are self-isolating or working from home, finding time to relax, mediating, practicing mindfulness, and journaling down your thoughts and feelings. What are your favorite activities for self-care? Is there anything that you have been meaning to try but haven’t yet?
The World Health Organization has moved away from the term ‘social distancing’ and uses ‘physical distancing’ instead. This is because while we must keep away from one another physically in order to help manage the spread of the coronavirus, it is equally important for us to remain connected socially. There is an abundance of research that shows that our mental health suffers when we are socially isolated. So, leverage on information technology to continue to connect with one another. Whatsapp, Skype, Zoom, and Facetime are some great apps to start with to keep connected. Who might you connect (or reconnect) with today?
Seek additional support when needed
These are unprecedented times, and it is normal to feel overwhelmed by the situation and your emotions. If you need additional help for your mental health, AHS has licensed therapists who are ever ready to support you through these challenging times. Telehealth options are also available to support those who are practicing physical distancing, or self-isolation. Contact our inquiry team at XXX to find out more.
For more information on COVID-19
The Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare provides up-to-date information in English about the COVID-19 situation in Korea.
The World Health Organization provides information and resources about the global situation around COVID-19.