As COVID-19 continued to spread across the country, social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders were extended indefinitely. In this Bridal Guide article, Mindpath Health’s chief medical officer Priyanka, MD, shares tips to relieve stress, cope with the new normal, and stay connected while physically apart 

How to Care for Your Mental Health During the Pandemic_Priyanka, MD_Mindpath Health

The untold side effect of social distancing is that our mental health can take a beating. Staying away from our families and friends is not human nature and having no end in sight can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and overwhelming stress. If you’re feeling out of sorts, you’re not alone.  

How to relieve stress and anxiety

Take deep breaths. To do this, sit in a comfortable position with your hand on your belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose, with your belly expanding outward. Exhale through your mouth, feeling your belly move inward. Repeat three to 10 times as necessary. 

Clear your mind. Meditation is an age-old relaxation technique. “Relaxation happens when the brain is not busy and doesn’t have to process large amounts of information,” says Milana Perepyolkina, author of Gypsy Energy Secrets: Turning a Bad Day into a Good Day No Matter What Life Throws at You. 

Exercise. “Yoga has proven to help in stress management, lowering anxiety and cortisone levels. If new to yoga, practice basic balancing poses, belly breathing/yogic breath and alternate nostril breathing (pranayama) to calm the mind and relax,” says Dr. Gadhok, MD. 

“Walk around your neighborhood, head down to your favorite park, go for a drive and try a new trail. Get out into nature and change your surroundings,” says Dr. Kathy Nickerson, LCP. 

Practice self-care. “Self-care can come in a variety of packages; journaling, taking a bath, taking a walk, reading, yoga, cooking, and baking,” says Jessica Small, LMFT 

Grieve your loss. “The most significant loss is felt in things we are used to taking for granted – the ability to hug each other, shake hands, hold hands, sit down together for dinner with friends, or even just a pat on the back. We do not realize how significant such simple things are until we lose the opportunity for human touch, albeit temporarily,” says Dr. Priyanka, a board-certified psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Mindpath Health. 

Show yourself grace. “Acknowledge that this shift is big. It’s probably more significant and more impactful than you initially expected. Since social distancing without a set end date requires more adjustment than we thought, expect things that normally come easily to take a little more effort. Expect sustainable changes in routines to take time. Nobody is required to handle this perfectly,” says Sharon Yu, LMFT. 

Avoid the comparison trap. Social media keeps us connected, and many of us find ourselves glued to our newsfeeds even more than usual these days. Remind yourself that a lot of people only share the positives and hide their personal struggles.  

Take a news break. It’s important to stay informed, but it’s not necessary to stay glued to the TV for updates. “As watching the news can trigger stress and increase anxiety, I recommend watching the news in the morning, if at all. When possible, obtain your news from the radio or in print due to the less explosive, less emotionally triggering aspects of written or audio-only news. Avoid all news in the evening. Choose your news provider carefully, taking care to select a news service that tends to be less reactive and more pragmatic in nature,” says Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist. 

Pick up a new hobby. Or revisit an old forgotten one. Having a creative outlet will help occupy your mind and body with something purposeful. “We can use our free time to explore hobbies and interests that not only make us feel productive, but also help us to learn new skills. Dust off those time-consuming recipes you have been meaning to test out, take a language course online, or finally work on that complicated puzzle you’ve been saving for a rainy day,” says Dr. Priyanka. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. “Now is the time to leverage technology. If you usually see a doctor in-person, I highly recommend turning to telehealth right now,” says Dr. Steven Powell, psychiatrist and clinical specialty advisor for Hims & Hers mental health. 

Read the full Bridal Guide article with sources. 

Priyanka Priyanka, M.D.

Fresno, CA

Dr. Priyanka is a board-certified psychiatrist. She attended medical school in India and came to the United States in 2006 to continue her education. She first attended the Nutrition and Dietetics program at Syracuse University and then joined the psychiatry residency program at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York. She joined Mindpath Health after finishing her ... Read Full Bio »

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