This is a scary time. Every time we turn on the news, open our Twitter feed, or look at Facebook, we see more devastating news about COVID-19. In the UK, they have recommended that people with diabetes isolate themselves for 14 weeks. Reporters are constantly telling us that COVID-19 is a greater risk for people with underlying conditions like diabetes. So how do you manage your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Know the facts
First things first…know the facts. People with chronic high blood sugar levels are more prone to infections and illnesses. They are more likely to experience serious complications if they develop COVID-19.
The average person with type 1 diabetes and no underlying conditions, is at no higher risk of coming down with COVID-19 than anyone else. Let me say that again… The average person with type 1 diabetes and no underlying conditions, is at no higher risk of coming down with COVID-19 than anyone else.
We also know that problems can escalate more quickly when a person with type 1 diabetes develops the flu, however. Getting COVID-19 is no different so make sure that you protect yourself.
Control what you can control
This is the best advice I think that have read. It comes from the Diabetes Association in Australia. They remind us that “while we can’t control everything that is going on around us, we can control how we choose to look after ourselves. Now is the time to choose to control what you can control, be it your sleep, stress, social environment or what you choose to eat. A sense of control helps us feel calmer, more relaxed and less stressed.”
You can also reduce your chances of getting COVID-19 through social (physical) distancing and proper handwashing.
The Diabetes Association of Australia further reminds us that worry is about what has, or what might happen. Challenge yourself to stay in the present moment. Deal with the here and now.
Limit your exposure to the news
It is important to stay informed, as we already said, but make sure that you are getting your information from reliable sources. Do not spend a lot of time watching the news. The news is rarely good for your mental health at the best of times. If you feel compelled to know the status of COVID-19 in your area, go to your regional health authority’s website. Take control of what you read so that you are not overwhelmed by any sensationalism in reporting.
Find time to relax
Even if you are working from home, self-isolating, or quarantined, it is important to take time to unwind. Healthline suggests that you start each day with a 15-minute mediation. If meditating isn’t for you, take just 5 minutes and spend it by yourself. Allow yourself time to regroup, scream, or simply be before you get back into the reality of living in the middle of a pandemic.
Depending on where you live and what the weather is like, this can be a challenge but try to go outside. Getting out, feeling the grass, and smelling fresh air can do a lot to help you manage your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak.
If you are quarantined, perhaps you are still allowed in your own backyard on out on a balcony.
If you are able to go for a walk, remember to avoid parks and do not walk in large groups. Stay 2m or 6 feet away from anyone else on a walking trail or sidewalk. You still want to keep your physical self safe while working on your mental health.
Find something new to do inside
While you are indoors, look for something other than social media and news programs to entertain you. Read the book that you were putting off. If you don’t have a book at home that interests you, borrow one from a virtual library. If you have children, this can be a great time to share a book together.
This is also the perfect time to get reacquainted with your favourite board games. Bring them out of your closet and share the fun with your family. If you are alone set up a Skype, Facetime, or Zoom chat with a friend or loved one and play together virtually!
Share your concerns about Covid-19
While we are forced to experience physical distance, we still need emotional connections. Use your Facebook messenger video chat, set up a Facetime, or video Snapchat and talk to your friends and loved ones. Share with them your worries and concerns about living with type 1 diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Allow them to help you if you are struggling. Perhaps your sharing will help them open up about their own concerns.
Colouring can be meditative
Bring out that colouring book that you have tucked away or print your favourite images off the internet and find your crayons. Remember how much fun you had as a child when you coloured your favourite pages? Do it again. Colour with a loved one and create new memories.
Start a journal
If you are a writer, take the time to write out your feelings. Journal about how you are coping. Release your feelings about living with type 1 diabetes during a COVID-19 pandemic.
If you aren’t sure where to start journaling, grab out free journal prompts for parents and people living with diabetes.
For those people who are really artistic, consider bullet journaling. Bullet journals can be amazing creative outlets for many people.
Stick to a schedule…or don’t
For some people, there is a need to stick to a routine. If you are used to getting up and going to work, get up and prepare yourself as if you are heading to work. During your “commute” spend some time reading, journaling, or meditating. Set specific hours of work, emailing, and video conferencing.
If you find that you are struggling and keeping a schedule is just too overwhelming, then don’t! There is no right or wrong way to get through a pandemic. There is no right or wrong way to handle all of the emotions that come from having to stay away from family and friends.
The only right way is to do what works for you! If you need to spend days in your pajamas mindlessly watching comedies for a few days then do it! If you need to cry, then do that too.
If it begins to feel overwhelming, reach out to someone. Talk to a family member or good friend. Reach out to a therapist or mental health worker.
While we are social distancing, we are not alone.
Human beings are social beings. We love to spend time with those who are close to us. It is, therefore, more important than ever to look after our mental health as we try to protect our physical health from COVID-19.
Make sure to get enough sleep. Try to get outside when you can. Reach out through video calls to family and friends. Together we will get through this pandemic.
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