Knowing that the virus is spreading and trying to stay healthy, not only physically, but mentally can be difficult. There are only a so many steps we can take to make sure that we are physically healthy: wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, don’t touch your face, buying a few extra supplies at the store and getting some backup medications, avoid going out if sick, cough into your sleeve or a tissue, avoid places where there are large crowds of people close together.  These things are fairly easy to accomplish (except maybe not touching your face! Have you noticed how often you do it without thinking?)

Ways to take care of our mental health are more difficult to monitor and figure out, even though they are equally important. Everyone is saying not to panic, and then you see that post on your friend’s social media from a “doctor” writing to her family and claiming we are all going to know someone who dies from this virus. Wait, wait, slow down, that IS NOT what the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) or the doctors on television are saying. The last I heard is that eighty percent of cases are mild and don’t cause serious illness. The first thing to do to protect your mental health is not to believe anything you read about this evolving situation on social media. Listen to reports from health officials, like your local health department, or the CDC.

The second way to protect your mental health is to do things that you enjoy that can distract you from thinking about all the possibilities (anxious thoughts or thinking). Now would be a good time to start a journal, begin to paint or draw. For a few dollars, you can buy a sketch notebook or lined notebook. If you can’t afford one of those, you can use computer paper and draw or write on that. If you have a little extra cash, spend some time on Amazon choosing a cool notebook to start with, one that will make you feel like writing or drawing. If you really can’t get any paper, consider taking up photography (you can use your phone for this). I like to take pictures of things in my house. You can stage all kinds of photos.

Another way to distract yourself is to find recipes on the Internet for bread, or cookies, or easy meals and try to make them. You can try a new recipe every couple of days and document them on your social media. You can learn new skills, create something tasty and comforting, and possibly beautiful.

Now would be a good time to take up walking as a hobby. The endorphins will make you feel better, you don’t have to walk in crowded places, and the movement will be good for you in so many ways both physically and psychologically. It will also boost your immune system making it less likely for you to fall ill.

There are so many ways to protect our mental health during this stressful time. I am making sure to give myself one comforting thing every day. Today, instead of milk, I had half and half in my coffee (a real treat).  Tomorrow, I plan to start a new book.

Please share with me things that you can treat yourself with or ways you are protecting your mental health.

We really are all in this together.