7 Steps to Stay Mentally Strong During Coronavirus Pandemic


© Getty Images

By Amy Morin, Business Insider

  • Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author.
  • She explains how the coronavirus pandemic can have a serious psychological toll on people due to financial stress, prolonged social isolation, and concern for loved ones, among other factors.
  • Morin recommends using these mental strength exercises when you're feeling down, including scheduling a time to worry, acknowledging and naming your emotions, and using the 10-minute rule.
  • Job loss. Financial insecurity. Social distancing. All these abrupt changes (combined with the fear of getting sick or losing a loved one) can take a serious toll on your psychological well-being.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to stay mentally strong during the pandemic. These mental strength exercises can help you think, feel, and do your best — even during the middle of a crisis.


1

When your emotions get intense, give them a name

7 Steps to Stay Mentally Strong During Coronavirus Pandemic
Acknowledge your emotions and name them. © javi_indy/Shutterstock

Studies show that simply labeling your feelings takes a lot of the sting out of them. Saying, "I'm sad," helps you feel less sad. Acknowledging, "I'm really anxious right now," helps you feel less anxious. It's a simple way to feel better fast.

Of course, if you're not used to naming your emotions, it can be tougher than it seems at first glance. Figuring out how you're feeling — especially when you're experiencing several emotions at once — can feel overwhelming at first. But it gets easier with practice.

Whether you say how you're feeling out loud, or you just think it silently in your head, check in with yourself a few times a day to name your emotions. It can help you make sense of the emotional turmoil you might be experiencing right now, and instantly reduce some of your distress.



2

When you experience catastrophic thoughts, argue the opposite

7 Steps to Stay Mentally Strong During Coronavirus Pandemic
Don't get swept away in a negative cycle of thinking. © Oliver Rossi/Getty

Many of the things you think aren't true. But there's a good chance you sometimes get swept up into believing the lies your brain tells you — especially during a crisis.

When you catch yourself making catastrophic predictions about the horrors of the pandemic, argue the opposite. List all the reasons why those things aren't likely to occur.

Debating both sides of the argument can help you see that your catastrophic predictions aren't destined to happen. There's also a chance that things will turn out better than you're predicting. This can help you develop a more realistic outlook, which can calm your emotions and help you make the best decisions.



3

When you're feeling down, try some mood boosters

7 Steps to Stay Mentally Strong During Coronavirus Pandemic
Go outside for socially distanced exercise. © Anatoliy Karlyuk/Shutterstock

When you're in a good mood, you likely do things that make you feel happy. Listening to upbeat music, texting friends things that make you laugh, or reading a magazine might be on your "fun things to keep you happy" list.

When you're feeling down, however, your activities are likely to match your low mood and decreased energy. You might sit on the couch and watch TV, or you may mindlessly scroll through social media. These sorts of activities will keep you stuck in a bad mood.

The key to feeling better is to do the activities you usually do when you feel happy. In therapy, we call those things "mood boosters." It's hard to do fun things when you don't feel like it. But if you change your behavior first, the feelings will often follow.

Of course, mood boosters can be a little harder to come by when you're social distancing. You can't hit the gym or meet up with your friends. So it may take a little creativity to find the activities that make you happy.



4

When you lack motivation, use the 10-minute rule

7 Steps to Stay Mentally Strong During Coronavirus Pandemic
Set timeframes for completing your tasks. © Mario Tama/Getty

When you're struggling to get yourself going, commit to doing a task for just 10 minutes. Whether it's a boring report or a major cleaning project, tell yourself you can quit at the 10-minute mark.

Most likely, you'll choose to keep going after 10 minutes. Getting started is usually the hardest part. Once you get going, it's much easier to keep going.



5

When you're worrying all the time, schedule time to worry

7 Steps to Stay Mentally Strong During Coronavirus Pandemic
Don't let it overwhelm your whole day. © PeopleImages/Getty Images

If you're preoccupied with worry right now, you're not alone. All the reports about "death tolls" and "community spread" can cause a major spike in anxiety.

But worrying can consume you and make it hard to function. And it won't do you or anyone else any good.

So set aside 15 minutes each day to worry. Put it in your calendar. And when your "worrying time" rolls around, worry your heart out. When your time is up, tell yourself that your worrying time is over, and move on to another activity.

With practice, you can learn to contain your worries to just 15 minutes a day — and prevent them from taking over all your time. A 2012 study found that people who established a "worry time" experienced significant decreases in their anxiety.



6

When you're concerned about others' behavior, do something kind for someone

7 Steps to Stay Mentally Strong During Coronavirus Pandemic
If you can do so safely, consider volunteering or donating to a cause meaningful to you. © Associated Press

When you witness people treating one another in an unkind manner, it's easy to start thinking the whole world is mean. To stop yourself from concluding this, do something kind.

Research has found that acts of kindness leads to increased happiness, and increased happiness leads to more acts of kindness. It's a simple but effective way to create a positive cycle in your life.

So whether you send a surprise gift to someone you love, or you leave a kind comment on someone's social media account, doing nice things can make your world — and someone else's — a much brighter place right now.



7

When you're thinking about the unfairness of the situation, practice gratitude

7 Steps to Stay Mentally Strong During Coronavirus Pandemic


Be thankful for what you do have.© skynesher/Getty Images

Right about now, you might be tempted to think of everything you've lost — like your job or the freedom to eat in a restaurant with your friends.

But focusing on how unfair and unfortunate the situation is will drain every ounce of joy you have left.

It's a great time to practice gratitude. Studies show gratitude boosts happiness levels. So think about all the things you have to be thankful for — like clean water and electricity.

Spend a few minutes each day experiencing and expressing your gratitude. Send someone a thank you letter, write in a gratitude journal, or just spend a few minutes thinking about all the things you feel grateful for — even during the pandemic. By doing these things, you'll improve your psychological well-being.

See more at: Business Insider
7 Steps to Stay Mentally Strong During Coronavirus Pandemic
Use these exercises to calm worries and anxiety. © AYA images/Shutterstock

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