How to Deal

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? It’s an important month to celebrate (be mindful of?) every year, but it’s especially important in 2020. By this point, we’ve been quarantining for several weeks and slowly some states are opening back up. Is it the right time? Is it too soon? The numbers will be able to tell us in a few weeks, but in the meantime, how are we supposed to deal with the anxiety that we’ve been experiencing for weeks and may even be increasing now?

That’s the question that Girls’ Night In, a website dedicated to the practice of taking care, recently asked a group of therapists. This Q&A offers a lot of good insight and answers some of the questions you may have been wondering but haven’t gotten the answers to yet like what to do about your psychosomatic symptoms, how to handle the collective trauma of a pandemic, and what’s the deal with these vivid dreams I’ve been having lately? Here’s an excerpt on feeling grief during this time.

Talking through feelings of loss or working through anger related to loss with positive coping (such as exercise) can support how we move through grief in a healthy manner. It can help us cope when we know what to expect; however, COVID-19 is quite unpredictable. Grief is also unpredictable. Therefore, it’s important to work on letting go of the control of our emotions and understand that each day will be different and it’s normal to have good days and bad days.

Focusing on our mental health is a vital part of getting through this together, even (especially) if we’re alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone — a friend, a family member, a clergy member, a counselor. We don’t have to deal with this and every emotion it can bring alone. For more information, see our Community Resources page.

Limiting Your Exposure to the News

We all want to stay informed, but is there a point at which compulsively checking for new headlines and inundating ourselves with the latest stats and on confirmed cases and deaths, details on the origins of the virus, what world leader is saying and doing what right now? According to psychiatrist and habit change specialist Dr. Jud Brewer, there is. And that tipping point might be right now.

In his article “Breaking Your Addiction to Breaking News,” Dr. Brewer explains some of the neuroscience behind why we love breaking news so much. But he also cautions that reading bad news can make you anxious, something you probably don’t need or want right now. Luckily, he offers a few tips on how to stop the the ancient part of your brain from seeking out headline after headline for that next dopamine hit, like:

  1. Set yourself a frequency limit for checking the news. “I will only check the news twice a day.” And stick to it!
  2. Set yourself a time limit for checking the news during those occasions you’ve allotted yourself. “I will only look at the news for 10 minutes.”
  3. Practice mindfulness. I thought this one was very interesting! After you’ve read a piece of news, stop and check in with yourself. Ask yourself “what did I get from reading that? How do I feel now after reading that?” Dr. Brewer goes into more detail about how this trick works. Brains are so cool.

So, if you’re still struggling with the emotions that news brings you, but you can’t seem to stop, maybe what’s best right now is to acknowledge those emotions and step back from it. Give Dr. Brewer a read (and he links to some other great info as well) and break the habit.