Protecting Your Mental Health During a Crisis
A crisis is defined as “an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending.” There are a variety of types of crises — situational crisis, existential crisis, national crisis, etc. — and they can each cause different effects on your mental health. It is also important to understand that different factors cause depression, depending on the individual. While some may respond one way, another individual may act or respond entirely differently, and both responses are valid. Since individuals process, think, and respond differently to stressful situations, it can lead to panic, stress, emotion-based decisions, and miscommunication/misinformation. The following are common responses to traumatic events:
- Questioning everything;
- Social withdrawal;
- Using drugs and alcohol.
This list is not exhaustive, and the way that individuals may respond during a crisis may vary dramatically. It is important to equip yourself with the right tools and resources for mitigating and protecting your mental health during a crisis with the efforts outlined below.
In the midst of a crisis, news coverage and social media impact communications dramatically. News and information are traveling at much more rapid rates for the sake of being the first to post about it. With an emphasis placed on getting the information out there as quickly as possible, misleading information and fake news are at an all-time high — sometimes deliberately. It is important to set healthy boundaries with yourself. If you are constantly surrounded and consumed by negative, startling articles, it can be hard to stay positive and keep control of your mental health. Try setting the following boundaries for yourself:
- Limit exposure: Constant consumption of media can leave you feeling anxious, angry, sad, and a variety of other feelings. Set limitations for how much media you expose yourself to during the day. You don’t want to become ignorant of what is going on in the world around you, but you can carve out specific times that are media-free;
- Turn off notifications: Turning off your notifications can help you from becoming glued to the media. When you turn your notifications for an app off in your phone settings, you eliminate alerts that can potentially get you upset;
- Consume positive media: You can fill your mind with positive media by following and filling your timeline with sources that are focused on less heavy, favorable, optimistic content;
Process Your Emotions
During a crisis, you are forced to process a lot of information, and it can be difficult to process all of your emotions without knowing the proper way to do so — especially those who struggle with anxiety and stress coping techniques. According to Psychology Today, understanding emotions and how to process them is a five-part process that involves defining and categorizing emotions, recognizing unhealthy coping strategies, adapting coping strategies to be healthier, and working to build these coping skills over time. Below are some common ways to engage in the five-part process:
- Journaling: Write down what you are feeling. It doesn’t need to be a scholarly article. It can be a messy jumble of thoughts, but putting them down on paper can help alleviate the stress of holding them in;
- Painting: Sometimes simply putting some paint on canvas can do wonders for processing your emotions. It’s a great method for venting in a private sphere or with others;
- Talking to friends: You can share your emotions and experiences with friends for relief, and alternative viewpoints.
Practicing self-care can come in a variety of forms. Built-up anxiety and stress can affect your immune system, so you want to practice self-care as often as possible. Below are some standard ways to practice self-care:
- Pampering: This can be achieved with a warm bath, buying a treat, getting a massage, reading a book with your feet kicked up, and many other ways. CBD oil and topicals are also great options to enhance a self-care routine;
- Meditating: There are many science-based benefits of meditation. It can help reduce stress, mitigate anxiety, create self-awareness, and improve emotional health as a whole;
- Eating well: You need to nourish your body both mentally and physically, and you can use food to practice self-care. Make sure to eat regularly, drink enough water, eat your greens, avoid excessive sugar, plan meals, eat mindfully, and don’t be afraid to indulge in treats as well.
Maintain a Routine
During a crisis, it can be easy to slip out of your normal regime. Some crises require evacuations or quarantine, so this can become even more difficult. Living a healthier lifestyle can help individuals who suffer from stress, anxiety, poor sleep, poor eating habits, and many other aspects of life. When you create a daily routine, factor in the things that you need to do (e.g. eating, sleeping, working, etc.), eliminate the things that you don’t, make time for breaks, and make changes to your routine as you see fit.
Stay in Touch With Others
According to scientist Matthew Lieberman, as humans, we are wired to connect with one another. As stated above, under some crisis circumstances, this can prove difficult. If you are struggling to stay in touch with others, try reaching out and scheduling a recurring time with friends. If you are quarantined — or simply cannot meet up in-person — take advantage of the following ways to stay in touch with others:
- Social Media;
- Fun game apps.
According to Harvard Business Review claims that there are generally six causes of burnout, and one of them stems from lack of control. During a crisis, a lack of control can feel at an all-time high. By keeping your mind right, scheduling out your day/breaks, and communicating with others in areas you are struggling with, you can help mitigate burnout.
Exercising improves mental health and minimizes anxiety, depression, negative self-image, and mood swings by improving the following factors:
- Social interaction;
- Stress relief;
- Reduced fatigue;
- Weight reduction;
- Physical health.
Find Professional Support
Crises will impact everyone differently and it is possible to still feel overwhelmed or frustrated after trying the methods above. If this is the case, it is important to reach out for professional help. You can get immediate help online, or find a mental health professional near you.