How to keep your sanity during the Corona crisis

Mental health advice from an introvert

by George Bonev on Unsplash

TL;DR

  1. Build positive habits
  2. Reduce negativity in your life
  3. Mindfulness, self-talk & optimism
  4. Health & fitness is a must
  5. Do more of what you love
  6. Faith & meditation
  7. Distract yourself
  8. Rely on social support
  9. Have a big cause in your life
  10. Do good & help people

I am an Introvert, I have lived alone for years, actually, I prefer to stay alone. People like me are trained to cope with isolation and loneliness by both nature and experience. However, I have to confess: these days are still tough on me like it is on you, this is why I am writing this story to help you — and myself — by sharing practical tips and tricks I learned coping with loneliness throughout my life

“Living is a journey; living is a struggle. People have everything and they still can’t do it, they struggle. We take ourselves too seriously. We think we’re somebody. Who the f — -? We’re nothing! We come from s — -, we think we’re special! Fame is s — -.” Mike Tyson

Build positive habits

There is so much negativity flying around these days, to counter that, you will need to do consistent effort to inject positive thoughts into your mind every day, by making it … a habit

Start the day with positivity

I have been doing this for 2 years so far and it is just great

The first thing you do in the morning — after brushing your teeth and drinking water — is to sit down and list all the things that you still have and should be grateful for.

Really, think about it, you might lose your job soon but you are still healthy, you have eyes to see, you have a brain to learn, you can still move and hustle, you might have savings, you might live in a first-world country, you might have good supportive friends, people you love might still be alive, you are safe and free …

You might have lost the top of Maslow’s pyramid, but you still have the bottom.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, From Wikipedia Commons

Starting the day this way makes you calmer and more optimistic, basically, you are telling your body that you are fine and your body will act accordingly …

Reduce negativity in your life

How many bad and unfortunate news you get on your smartphone every day: people dying in Iran, the medical system collapsing in Italy, recession and uncertain future!

If you want to stay sane in these tough times you will need to cut the stream of negative news and people from your life.

Cut or reduce negative news from your daily routine

This is exactly what the World Health Organization recommends (#3) to protect your mental health during these crises

If one of your friends is always sharing numbers of dead people, unfollow him or her now.

If you want to stay up to date, you can read the news (including social media) two times a day only, keep the phone away from your reach, log out from Facebook on your laptop, and close the TV most of the day.

This step is crucial for your mental health. Imagine a dripping tap above your head dropping shit all day long, how would you feel at the end of the day!

Such constant feed of negativity will eventually get into your subconscious and will be the lens of which you see the world, it is dangerous because it is constant and common these days even before Corona, last year we have seen fires, wars, clashes, planes falling, so being able to control negativity is something that will help you along the way and will have a tremendous effect on your mental health going forward

Mindfulness, Self-talk & Optimism

In times like these, your mind might work against you, exaggerating and dramatizing everything …

“Oh, what if I didn’t find toilet papers in the supermarket ! how will I clean my shit then” “What if my company goes bankrupt” “What if this situation continues …”

These are just examples of how far your brain will go, probably to alert and protect you. However, this can have severe consequences on your mind and body such as constant anxiety, weaker immunity, and bad decision making.

You need to be mindful and optimistic

The only solution I know for this problem is mindfulness, which is (from my experience) training yourself to observe your self-talk, understand where it comes from, handle it by accepting or rephrasing to a more positive and optimistic narrative. There are many articles and content about mindfulness out there, you can use meditation, yoga, focus exercises … however, the way I learned to be mindful was by pushing myself to observe my self-talk as much as I can, until it became a habit.

Let’s see a practical example: say you observe your mind saying,

“Shit, what if I go tomorrow to the supermarket and found it empty?”

At this point, you have the choice of moving in this direction, overthinking and then running to the supermarket and overbuy everything and even after that, you will still be anxious…

The other way is to handle this thought by thinking about it positively as well as putting a Plan-B, you can say,

“I don’t think this will happen, it is impossible for all supermarkets to be empty, even if that is the case, it will refill the next day, and even if it didn’t, I still have 2–3 days of food anyway, and even if I didn’t I can still ask my friends for help”

You can also use acceptance to your advantage, in cases where you have no control just ask yourself:

Would it help ?

Finally, try to invest your energy thinking about the positive aspects of Corona like the positive effects on climate change and the extra time you got by working from home.

It might take you months to change your mind towards being more mindful and optimistic, but trust me it is worth it, mental skills as such will help you make better decisions and have a better relationship with your colleagues, family, and friends …

Health & fitness is a must

There were times in my life where health was not a priority at all, later I realized my mistake and changed my eating and sleeping habits and exercised every week, the difference on my life was above my expectations ….

By lizandmollie found on reddit

In these tough times, if you expect your brain to work well then you will need to feed it well (healthy food), you need to provide it more oxygen and blood flow (exercise) and you need to let it rest for maintenance (sleep)

Although the above is common sense, many of us will still give up our health for pleasure, but the good news is we have a golden chance now with all these “city lock-downs” to reclaim our health and to do what is right for ourselves

Regular exercise, better sleep, and healthy food = better mental health

I have personally observed the following effects:

  1. Exercise calms me down and makes me energetic and improves my overall mood
  2. Good sleep improves my memory, makes me less stressed and more awake in the morning
  3. Less coffee makes me more relaxed (less tension)
  4. Healthy food + vitamins lead to better sleep, better exercise performance, better endurance, better memory, and brain performance

This is why I think health and fitness is key to better mental health and success in life as well.

Suggested actions:

Start with small habits like exercising 5 mins every day

turn off all digital devices at 10 PM and prepare yourself for sleep

Add lemon, garlic, onions, and fruits to your daily diet

I will write a separate story later about how I took control of my sleep after years of struggle.

Do more of what you love

When you are happy, your brain releases dopamine which will make you feel satisfied and relaxed, so if there are not many happy moments in your life, then you will need to create some.

Do more of what makes you happy on a daily basis

Make it a habit to please yourself every day whenever possible, if you like Music turn it on when you wake up and before you sleep, watch funny videos on Youtube, watch movies on Netflix, read Novels, cook delicious food, play online games, eat dark chocolate …. just do what you love, and do it consistently to counter the pressures we are facing these days

Faith & Meditation

Faith leads to acceptance, you feel you can lean on a higher power for support, praying and contemplation helps relieve your anxiety and fear

Meditation is scientifically proven to calm you down and improve your mental health.

Finally, breathing exercises can also improve your immunity and make you more relaxed.

Pray, meditate and do breathing exercises to stay calm

Distract yourself

Most negative thoughts come when you are idle or when consuming news on social media. You can fix that by making sure you are engaged in positive activities most of the time.

“If you don’t proactively fill your time with positive activities, your brain might fill it with negative thoughts”

Distract yourself by engaging in positive activities

Suggested actions:

Engage in learning a new language or skill

Work on side projects

Do your best hobby

Set a goal and try to reach it

This way, your brain will not find much time to worry, and also you get a sense of achievement which is also beneficial.

Rely on social support

We are humans, even introverts need to socialize and have strong relationships with other people. Make sure you have a strong inner circle of family and friends and reach out to them in case you need mental or physical support.

Reach out to your social support network

Also, be proactive and caring for your network, check their updates especially in these days and offer support if needed.

Have a big cause in your life

This is slightly related to distraction but at a higher level.

If you have a big goal or cause in your life, everything else will look smaller and you will try to be stronger to reach that goal

That goal can be related to your kids, your family, an idea you are working on or even changing the world. If you don’t have any, then you should start thinking of one.

Having big goals in life will make other challenges look smaller and manageable, it makes you stronger and more resilient.

Ask yourself, why do I want to live, why do I want to overcome the current crisis?

Do good & help people

Doing good makes you feel good, this is also scientifically proven.

We live now in times of an epidemic, try to help anyone in need in your community, not just that you will be doing your part in solving the issue, but you will also feel better and thus healthier.

Do good so you can feel good

I hope this story will help you feel better and more in control of your mental health, I hope you will come out of this crisis stronger, healthier and happier. Stay safe and take care of yourself and others …

Freelance Consultant — Data & Product. Writing about Data, Entrepreneurship and Life. https://karim.ouda.net