It's important to take care of your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic

I had a nightmare last night — we ran out of toilet paper and I went to the grocery store and ended up getting trampled to death by the customers. I woke up abruptly and couldn't fall back asleep... and then, soon after, I got the song "It's the End of the World" by R.E.M. stuck in my head for the rest of the day!

There's an obvious reason my brain is doing this to me. It's because of the one topic that everyone, and I mean everyone, is talking about. Coronavirus.

It's starting to feel like the beginning of a horror movie where people are forced to stay in their homes, the streets are empty, a tumbleweed rolls by and, instead of wearing a blindfold over our eyes like in "Bird Box," everyone is wearing it over their noses and mouths when they have to go outdoors.

For those of us already struggling with our mental health, the fear of not only the disease but, maybe even more so, the fear of mass hysteria, isolation and bankruptcy really doesn't help our mental state. And, since suicide kills much more people than the coronavirus, the rise of depression resulting from the pandemic is something to be taken very seriously!

Nearly 43 percent of Chinese citizens tested positive for anxiety due to the outbreak. Ding Yingzhou, a resident of the city Wuhan, told Aljazeera Media Network that he used to have a rewarding life working at a popular noodle restaurant. Now, he spends his days in isolation — watering his plants, making his bed and watching the news.

"Imagine, you aren't allowed to leave this room for more than two months and only walk within this apartment. How would you feel? It's very difficult," Yingzhou said.

We don't know yet what's in store in the U.S. But there are already plenty of businesses mandating employees to work from home, schools that are closed for the next several weeks, universities switching to an entirely online curriculum and grocery stores bare of many essential items.

So what can you do? Of course, we've all heard how to take care of our physical health by now, like washing your hands with soap and water while singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice to yourself. But what can you do to help your mental health?

1. The World Health Organization encourages you to stay informed, but to also limit your intake of corona-virus related news to once or twice a day. The constant stream of news definitely isn't good for your mental health.

2. Many times, we have a tendency to focus on the bad. Instead, seek out positive stories about people who have recovered from the virus. About 3.4% of those who contracted the disease have died — which means 96.6% have survived!

3. Get outdoors everyday, even if it's just in your backyard or your neighborhood.

4. Express your emotions by engaging in a creative activity. Draw, write, knit, play a musical instrument or learn a new hobby. For me, if I'm going to have to avoid other humans in the near future, I'm going to spend that time finally finishing writing a book! (Silver linings are always good to have!)

5. Exercise regularly, eat healthy and get enough sleep.

7. Practice relaxation techniques like mediation.

8. Watch happy movies (or, if a documentary about serial killers makes you feel better, that works too).

9. If you are isolated to your home, stay connected to others through phone calls, video conferencing and social media.

10. As they say at AA meetings, "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." In this case, take control of what you can, like washing your hands, not touching your face, saying no to handshakes, etc. —and not focusing on the rest.

11. And, most importantly, as the support community Mental Health Notes tweeted, "Remember, you probably won't die."

The local organization Six Feet Over is partnering with the Crisis Text Line to help those anxious about the coronavirus. To reach crisis counselors, text SIS to 741741.

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