Amid the stressful situations brought about by the COVID pandemic and the uncertainties that come with them, taking care of your mental health should be your top priority.
This is what Dr. Gia Grace Baquiran-Sison, doctor of occupational medicine and national advisor to the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, advised for everyone dealing with the pandemic.
She shared practical tips and tools to cope with stress and anxiety in a webinar organized by real estate firm Avida, in partnership with the Philippine Star.
Avida promotes a holistic lifestyle, one that extends beyond simply residing in your dream home – your health, independence, and financial readiness are important too. That’s why Avida invited esteemed experts from different fields and industries to speak at “HomePossible: Ready to Restart,” a series of informative online talks intended to inspire your choices in everyday living and help you take life further, even amidst challenges like COVID.
Mental health 101 during COVID
In her talk, Dr. Sison defined mental health as a “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
The pandemic has taken a toll on people’s mental health. The loss of lives, heightened emotions, and sudden changes in routine (ranging from the loss of loved ones to COVID and lifestyle changes like moving from the office to a work-at-home setup) have upended our lives, almost without exception. “All of us are uncertain about the future,” Dr. Sison noted. “We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Dr. Sison finds the work-from-home setup particularly pernicious: it removes the usual social cues differentiating work and rest. “If that continues, we’ll find ourselves being overburdened, and eventually, it may lead to burnout,” Dr. Sison explained.
Mental wellness tips
Not all is lost, though. Dr. Sison offered several must-do mental health practices to help people weather the pandemic.
- Practice self-awareness. Being aware of your emotions, especially if you are feeling stressed or anxious, will help you address them better.
- Accept the situation. Dr. Sison drew on cognitive behavioral therapy to teach attendees the difference between what one can change, and what one cannot. “If you can control it, then you act on it,” Dr. Sison explained. “If you cannot control it, you can actually reframe your thought, change your perspective.”
- Take care of your body. Eat a balanced diet, hydrate properly, exercise, and sleep well. These can have an impact on your well-being.
- Regulate social media use. News and social media posts can be triggering. You may want to just follow two credible news agencies for COVID news and other updates, instead of reading everything in your feed.
- Maintain social connections. Keep in touch with your family and friends online, even if you cannot meet them physically. “Aside from COVID, the additional threat of isolation and loneliness is very real,” said Dr. Sison. “So reach out, especially to those who are at most vulnerable.”
- Practice gratitude. Amid all the COVID tragedies and uncertainties, find something to be grateful for every day. “It just means seeing beauty, despite all the chaos that we are seeing,” explained Dr. Sison. If you are so inclined, you may want to keep a gratitude journal. You can also join an online community where you share what you are grateful for.
- Breathe and be present. This is especially important if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. “Pause and take a deep breath,” Dr. Sison advised. “Name five things you can see, five things you can hear, five things you can smell… These are things that you may want to do to ease your anxiety at that moment.”
- Re-examine and fine-tune your coping strategies. Review and reflect on how you cope. Do you have negative coping strategies? How can you replace them with positive ones? For example, if you have a tendency to binge on junk food when you are feeling anxious, you might want to talk to a friend instead.
Moving forward with well-being
Dr. Sison pointed out that while the tips she gave can help, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health. It is best for you to practice and find what works best for you.
Watch Dr. Sison’s talk here to know more about her practical tips on coping with stress and anxiety during this pandemic and her answers to burning questions on mental health.