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After months of adjusting our daily lives to the coronavirus, it’s okay to still not be feeling 100—even if you’ve become a pro at masking up, washing your hands frequently, and social distancing, if Covid-19 has got you feeling more anxious than ever these days, you might’ve been hit with “pandemic fatigue.”
“As time goes on more people are exhibiting more severe symptoms of depression and stress,” says Lisa Brateman, a Psychotherapist and Relationship Specialist in New York. “A year ago, everyone was cleaning out their closets, doing home repairs, puzzles and art projects. Today, they are spending hours hitting the refresh button on their computer [only to] not get an appointment for the vaccine. The pandemic is having a profound impact on maintaining emotional stability.”
The uncertainty of the unknown at this point in the pandemic can be triggering mental health crises, as Covid-19 cases continue to spike across the country. A study found that about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms in 2019. Many people have also been affected by lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are also either are either still in place, or being reinstated, nationwide. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that psychological challenges can “heighten the impact of [Covid-related] anxiety and isolation.”
Brateman has seen an increase in symptoms of depression amongst her patients, especially those who live alone. “On the other hand, many couples are [also] finding it difficult to navigate being with their partners and/or children 24/7,” she says, “[as] the elderly and parents of young children have additional stresses to cope with.”
Everyone is struggling with the pandemic in their own ways, but whether you’re dealing with new mental roadblocks brought on by the lockdowns, or coping with long-standing anxiety and depression, taking care of your mental health should be just as much a focus as your physical health nowadays.
It’s not always so easy, though; depending on restrictions in your area, it may currently be difficult to access in-person therapy sessions. The WHO says the pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide, while the need for mental health resources has only increased. Juggling new priorities, such as working from home, remote-learning, and childcare, might make it hard to find time in your day to cultivate self-care practices.
The good news is that are healthy, at-home solutions that will make it little easier to cope with new continued pandemic-related stressors, as well as improve your mood overall. Brateman recommends that no matter what you do, being proactive about your future is key. “Internal conflict about what you can’t change now only deepens hopelessness,” she says. “Think about what you can do now to improve your circumstances that would make you feel better.”
Whether you’re looking to relieve stress, sleep more soundly, or give your brain a boost, we’ve rounded up the top mental health products that can help you manage the rollercoaster of emotions you might be feeling right now. Note: these are not replacements for therapy, so if you’re struggling with severe anxiety or depression, speak to a trusted medical professional, or access free and confidential resources such as a crisis hotline. But otherwise, scroll through this list to find easy ways you can start a self-care routine today.
1. Utilize a Virtual Therapy Service
“Most of my colleagues are offering telemedicine or teletherapy on HIPPA compliance platforms,” says Brateman. “There are many benefits to teletherapy such as access for people who live in rural areas, less travel time to a therapist’s office, and retention rates are higher. I have discovered that some patients reveal more while sitting in their own living rooms because it adds an additional layer of emotional comfort.”
One well-reviewed teletherapy option, used even by celebs like Michael Phelps and Demi Lovato, is Talkspace, a subscription based therapy service. When you sign up, you’ll be matched with a therapist from their network of licensed professionals, and communicate through live video sessions, text messages, phone calls, as well as picture and video messages in a private, text-based chat room. Not only is it accessible, with the ability to reach out to a therapist 24/7, but affordable too—Talkspace accepts many major insurance plans such as Cigna and Humana.
2. Take an Online Course on Stress Management
Don’t see a therapist regularly? Taking a one-time virtual course can also help you learn some tools for coping with anxiety and stress that you can incorporate into your daily life.
Udemy has an entire section dedicated to “Happiness Courses,” although that’s a bit of a misnomer. Classes include how to manage stress and anxiety with Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) techniques, how to cultivate mindfulness, or just how to find joy with where you are in life.
From free options to courses starting at $19.99, you’ll get advice that’s actually useful from licensed therapists, life coaches, professors, and more. One of the highest-rated courses in this category right now is called “Anxiety and Stress,” which teaches practical techniques for reducing anxiety and increasing the empowerment you feel over your own life.
3. Combat Seasonal Mood Changes with Light Therapy
Brateman says that now that we’re all in the second winter of the pandemic, “I have seen more patients suffer from seasonal affective disorder which is the reduction of sunlight which is known to lead to depression.” If you can’t get outside to soak up some sunshine right now, light therapy lamps are a good alternative for those who need a little pick-me-up.
Miroco has one of our favorite mood lamps that delivers up to 10,000 lux of UV-free light; alternate the brightness levels with three modes, and you can set a timer for up to 60 minutes of re-energizing light. Compact and portable, this gentle light can be placed on a desk while you work from home, or on a bedside table to help wake you up gently in the morning. It’s recommended that the light should be facing your eyes (without you staring directly into it) starting for 10 minutes a day, then gradually increase the time until you feel the desired effect.
4. Call and Video Chat with Loved Ones
“Initially, Zoom was a life saver for some [but] now many are retreating into depression,” says Brateman. “The physical isolation has morphed into emotional isolation. Bring in other people in your online world to change the channel of the negative thoughts that the pandemic inspires.”
Though it may not fill the void of in-person interactions, it’s still important to stay in touch and check in regularly with friends and family virtually. Portal by Facebook will make you feel like you’re in the same room with your loved ones, and you can even create group call of up to 50 people with Messenger Rooms. You can talk and move hands-free, as Portal’s Smart Camera automatically pans and keeps everyone in frame, all while minimizing unwanted background noise if you’ve got a full house right now. Need a little privacy during your call? Disable the camera and microphone, or block the camera lens, with a simple switch. Even if we’re all far apart right now, surrounding yourself with a community of support is essential.
5. Add a Mood-Boosting Supplement to Your Diet
With coronavirus fears piling up, people have been turning to their local drugstores to look for the best immune-boosting and stress-relieving supplements. While there’s no magic pill that can help alleviate all your mental woes, adding supplements along with good nutrition and exercise can be just one way to keep your mind clear and focused.
Not a fan of chunky capsules or chalky vitamins? Zak Williams’ company PYM offers Mood Chews are made with naturally-occuring amino acids like GABA, L-Theanine, and Rhodiola that target the body’s hormone levels to manage stress and anxiety. If you’re feeling constantly overwhelmed, take one gummy daily, or 20 minutes before you know you’re about to go into a stressful situation. With all-natural ingredients, the effects are subtle, and don’t leave you with a buzzed or jittery feeling.
6. Pick Up a Yoga or Meditation Practice
Whether you’re in lockdown, self-isolating, or just sheltering in place, anyone who has more free time than usual and is uncertain about what lies ahead can benefit from developing a practice of moving your body in gentle ways. Brateman says you should resist the impulse to stay in bed all day, which will only make you feel worse. “Meditation and exercise will help. What you focus on is in direct correlation to how you feel.”
A good place to start is by picking up a high-quality yoga mat, like this Reversible 5 MM Wordmark Mat from Lululemon, which is thick enough to cushion your body and protect your joints from a hard floor, making it great for meditating lying down or sitting, even if it was specifically crafted for yoga. The top layer is super grippy, if your practice involves more sweat, but the natural rubber base has an antimicrobial additive so it stays fresh for longer. For more support for your lower back, you could also look for a meditation cushion tailored for holding one position, like sitting cross-legged.
7. Start Journaling Daily
If you have a lot of complicated emotions bubbling to the surface, one way to keep tabs on where your mental health is at is through writing down how you feel over the course of days, or weeks. Brateman says that daily practices like journaling can be “highly effective in stabilizing mood”, especially since heavy topics like loss and grief are now at the forefront of our minds.
We love the Moleskine classic notebooks, with a leather-like thick, durable cover that can easily be tossed in your bag on the go, or simply stay in your room to use any time. Available in several colors, the simplicity of the blank ivory pages is an ideal starting point for jotting quick thoughts down, or to curate a more detailed bullet journal.