How to take care of your mental health during COVID-19

Barbara Jackson

7 min read Last Updated Jun 3, 2020

This image depicts a man relaxing outdoors with his laptop.

Have you been feeling down lately? You’re not alone. Many of us are struggling to adjust to the new normal, whether that be working from home, helping our children e-learn, or not seeing our friends or loved ones. It can be difficult to adapt to all of this change. But remember, this will pass. If you’ve been in a negative headspace, here are some tips to help with your mental health during COVID-19. 

This is meant to be a helpful guide, but it should not be used to replace professional, medical advice. If you need medical attention, please call your doctor, or if it is an emergency call 911. A list of phone numbers and other resources to aid your mental health is included at the end of this post.

Ways to cope

It is natural to be fearful or anxious during this time. However, dwelling on these emotions can be unhealthy and overwhelming. Here are some healthy coping mechanisms to put your mind at ease.

Take a deep breath

The first step you should take when you are feeling overwhelmed is, stop what you are doing, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. A great way to lower your heart rate and center yourself is to breathe into one nostril for 10 seconds, out the other nostril for 10 seconds, switch nostrils, and repeat. Once you have gained control of your breathing, try and come up with a plan of how you can get out of this negative headspace. 

Limit news intake

While it is always important to stay informed, if listening to the news is causing you anxiety or stress, try reducing the amount of news you consume. Maybe this looks like going from reading an hour of news a day, to only reading 30 minutes of news a day. Perhaps instead of listening to the news in the background while you work, you only listen to a daily summary of news. Each person is different. But if the news is causing you stress, it might be a good idea to take a mental health break from the 24 hour news cycle.

Take a break from your screen

Between working from home, learning from home, watching Netflix, and reading the news, we are spending a lot of time staring at screens. This strains your eyes and can cause headaches. In addition, constantly seeing notifications from news sites, Twitter, and social media can contribute to the anxiety you may be feeling. Do your best to take breaks from screen time to give your eyes (and mind) a much needed rest.

Discover a new hobby

Hobbies and activities are healthy distractions from the troubles in the world. Find a project that you can focus on to lift your spirits. Whether it’s sewing, puzzles, board games, hiking, watching foreign films, or baking bread (a universally popular activity), find something that can take your mind off of our current situation. 

Be kind and patient with yourself

This is so important to remember. Even when we work our hardest to create healthy habits and coping mechanisms, some days will be easier than others. You might feel productive and positive one day, and unmotivated and negative the next. Allowing yourself to feel these feelings is necessary for your mental health. Be kind with yourself when you cannot accomplish all that you want to. These are scary times, and the more patient and kind we can be with ourselves, the easier it will be to get through this.

Reach out to a friend or family member once a day

Though we all should remain physically distant, we should not forget about the close relationships in our lives. Are you missing your friends? Set up a call on Zoom or Google Hangouts to see their faces and catch up. Has it been a while since you’ve spoken to your parents or grandparents? Call and check in on them. Staying in touch with the close people in your life will help you not feel so alone. 

Do your best work

Equipping yourself with the right resources while you transition to a new work environment is key. This is a handy guide with tips, tricks, and tools to help you succeed while you work from home during COVID-19.

Is your small business struggling due to the effects of COVID-19? We put together a helpful guide to streamline the process of applying for small business loans. Help your business get through this tough time with the right tools.

Online therapy

Online therapy is a great resource for those who are currently struggling with their mental health during COVID-19. Since many therapists aren’t taking new clients and shelter in place orders make it difficult to make appointments, online therapy is a great alternative. Consumers Advocate did thorough research of the various options available, and found the businesses below to be the best resources. Here is a summary of their findings. 

BetterHelp

BetterHelp is an online therapy site that connects users with thousands of licensed therapists across the 50 states. They have a mobile app and a website  where users can message a therapist, send voice recordings, and schedule live sessions through live chat, video calls, or phone calls. Here are some other great benefits to using BetterHelp:

  • Therapists respond quickly, within 24 hours or sooner
  • It’s easy to sign up for the service, fill out a short onboarding questionnaire and get matched with a therapist
  • BetterHelp only uses duly licensed and certified counselors, including psychologists (PhD / PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), or licensed professional counselors (LPC).
  • BetterHelp doesn’t only offer therapy services. Group web seminars (called “groupinars”) presentations are available to subscribers. Led by counselors, these presentations cover topics like grief, trauma, and wellness.
  • You can tailor your experience to fit your needs. Users can get sent to separate sites owned by BetterHelp for different approaches. FaithfulCounseling is for people who are interested in a Christian-based approach. Members of the LGBTQ community can seek therapy on PrideCounseling. Teenagers and their parents can go to TeenCounseling. For couples counseling, ReGain is available.

Talkspace 

Talkspace is another online therapy resource. Through Talkspace, users can speak with a licensed therapist through text and audio messages to help them with their mental health. Videos and photos through can also be sent through the desktop and mobile apps.

  • Talkspace verifies that all therapists are licensed and certified by the appropriate state boards and agencies, and have at least five years of experience in their field. These therapists must also have valid malpractice insurance, among other requirements listed in their Terms of Service
  • Therapists respond to messages any time during the week. If you have the Talkspace app downloaded on iOS or Android, then you can schedule 30 minute video chats with a therapist. 
  • Teenagers aged 13 to 17 can sign up for Talkspace with their parent or guardian’s consent. 

Though Consumer Advocate explains the benefits to both apps, they feel that BetterHelp offers more for their clients at a more affordable price. 

We’ll get through this together

Find the right coping mechanisms for you. Use online tools to get help when you need it. But most importantly, remember that no one has this situation completely figured out. All of us have felt sad, anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated, or scared. If we can be open with one another, help each other when possible (even if it’s just through a Zoom call), we can make it through this unsettling time together. 

Other helpful resources

  • If you are feeling overwhelmed with sadness, depression, or anxiety, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
  • You can call or text the Samaritans at any time at 1-877-870-4673 (HOPE) for emotional support. Whether you are feeling lonely, depressed, or just need someone to talk to, trained volunteers are ready to lend an ear.
  • California Suicide & Crisis Hotlines: Find phone numbers and links to all the suicide and crisis hotlines by county in California.
  • For more information, check out the California government’s list on helpful resources during COVID-19  .