How You Can Take Care of Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Pandemic

March 26, 2020

By Lloyd I. Sederer, MD

How can we take better care of ourselves and quiet the stress hormones that are pouring out of our adrenals as we face into the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic? 

In five ways - all free and accessible to everyone:

1. Sustain relationships with those you care about and who care about you. The not so secret path to a long and healthy life is through human attachments, proven to be even more powerful than our drives for food and sex. Don’t be afraid to “over-communicate,” by whatever medium you prefer (phone, email, video chat). Do remember, as we said in New York after the 9/11 attacks, “Even Heroes Need To Talk.”

2. Get an adequate amount of sleep. Sleep is restorative to the mind and body. It replenishes our capacity to master the next days’  inescapable challenges.  

3. Practice good nutrition, like a Mediterranean diet, high on fish and vegetables, including the many proteins in plants. And be sure to go easy on the sugars and salt.  

It is easy to forget or push aside sleep and nutrition, but when it comes to self-care and wellness they count a lot. They furnish us with stamina and help improve the capacities of our immune system to protect us from infection.

4. Physically move your body, which is much harder when we are confined. But as long as we have the Internet, music and television, we will have countless programs offering movement of all sorts. What do you like? Even 20 minutes a day can do the job.

5. Practice mindful activities. The western world has finally come around to a variety of "mind-body"activitiesthat are powerful in diminishing stress, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and even protecting the insulin-making cells in the pancreas. These include yoga, meditation, slow breathing (yogic breathing, my choice in recent years), mindfulness and Tai Chi. These are free to learn (online), but they take some practice to master - yet worth the price of our increasingly precious time. 

To read more about resilience in the wake of a disaster (such as we now face), please click here to my Psychology Today article (March 20, 2020).

Be well,

Lloyd Sederer, MD

 

Topics

Mental Health, Psychiatry

Tags

COVID-19, self care