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COVID-19 and Coping during Mental Health Month

Did you know that May is Mental Health Month and has been since 1949? Although Mental Health Month was started by Mental Health America, many different mental health advocacy organizations help spread awareness every year. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), for example, is spreading awareness this year with the tagline “You Are Not Alone,” which is an apt message for all of us right now as we shelter in place as much as possible to keep ourselves and our neighbors healthy.

Staying connected with others is important to your mental health, but when most of your interactions are two-dimensional during this pandemic, you may still be left feeling isolated, stressed, or sad.

What can you do when you’re feeling anxious, worried, lonely, or depressed? Here’s a list of activities that can help you cope. Choose one to do RIGHT NOW. Then, refer back to this list often until you’ve tried most or all of them!

  • Eat healthy foods: Even if you’re also eating less-than-healthy foods. Just increase your fruits and vegetables and remind yourself that you’re doing something good for your health.

  • Exercise: Whether it’s taking the stairs, walking around the block, or reorganizing the garage, any amount of exercise, in any form, is great for your mental health.

  • Regular sleep schedule: I know it’s hard, but resist the urge to sleep in every day. Set your alarm and get up at the same time every day so that you don’t end up with insomnia, oversleeping, or nocturnal!

  • Limit media exposure: You don’t need to watch hours of news coverage per day or read hundreds of articles to stay on top of current events, and it’s not good for your mental health to do so. Also, please check the source of your information!

  • Name your feelings: Just giving your feelings names can help you regain control over them. Struggling to come up with names? Try this resource.

  • Recognize that anxiety and sadness are not the enemy: We’re in a global pandemic. You may have lost your job, are struggling financially, or have people in your life who are sick with coronavirus. You’re supposed to be sad and anxious right now.

  • Crafts: Sew masks, potholders, or a shirt for your dog. Paint a picture. Sketch a tree in your back yard. Paint rocks for your garden. Take pretty pictures.

  • Clean out the junk drawer: Completing small tasks can give you a boost of feel-good endorphins. Try it and see for yourself!

  • Clear out clothes you haven’t worn in over a year: Make something out of them, donate them, or list them online to sell them.

  • Get some direct sunlight: I know it sounds hokey, but direct sunlight really can boost your mood! Get outside and enjoy the sun and nature.

Need more ideas? Here are some other coping activities to try:

  • Call someone

  • Watch a movie

  • Do a YouTube fitness class

  • Read a book

  • Learn about something on the internet

  • Do a sudoku puzzle

  • Do a crossword puzzle

  • Learn how to meditate

  • Learn mindfulness

  • Play a game on your phone or computer

  • Put together a jigsaw puzzle

  • Play a board game with your family

  • Check on your neighbor

  • Take a warm bath

  • Listen to music

  • Write your thoughts down in a journal

  • Take an online yoga class

  • Go for a walk in the sunshine

  • Offer to take your neighbor’s dog for a walk

  • Try some gardening

  • Try self-massage on your hands and feet

  • Write down 10 things for which you are grateful.

Take great care of your mental health during this time, spread the word about Mental Health Month, and remember that You Are Not Alone.

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