Coping with Mental Health Struggles During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Living with a mood disorder while in this time of uncertainty is very challenging. Aside from the nagging thoughts about COVID-19, we are well aware that if we leave ourselves unguarded, our quite fragile emotional and mental defenses can easily break down and drag us to a downward spiral.

The first week into the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was indeed difficult to tread. I serve as a knowledge management officer for a development and humanitarian organization. With our work demands, we have a sense of responsibility that we should remain steadfast to deliver assistance during this time.

I would prefer some days off so we can recollect and gather ourselves up as we transition into a work-from-home set-up. I know I have to address our family needs. But rest seemed like a luxury because of my work

Even if there was an opportunity to stop first, it did not feel right at that moment. My colleagues had to think about quick solutions how we can advocate for the rights of the most vulnerable. I felt I had to be there to support.

Having senior citizen parents living with me, and being a vulnerable person myself, overthinking was a constant struggle. I am the one assigned to do grocery runs once a week or do errands outside of our residence.

I usually struggled with the thought of doing what I want or need for myself and family first. I struggle with a sense of entitlement that I must have a lot of time to process these too, thus possibly sacrificing productive time at work.

But our leaders at work did not lack in reminding us that we have to keep a broad and sound mind to acknowledge quickly that the hardest battle lie with the poor and marginalized. More so, this pandemic affects many all over the world by people in various forms of struggle, often even worse than what we experience. I believe that created pressure.

But at the same time, that challenged us to rise above our situation and be true to the values that keep us together. That is to be strong, selfless, accountable, reliable, generous, courageous, and socially aware.

During the first few days, I found it hard to have a productive and restful routine. But as the days progressed, I tried to cope in the best ways I can by maintaining or trying a few habits.

  • First, I kept healthy spiritual habits by keeping a sound belief that God is in control and supported this by praying, reading the Bible daily, and learning from podcasts or livestreams from churches.
  • Second, I tried out silly things I found joy from like doodling, singing using a karaoke app, or doing Dubsmash acting.
  • Third, I stayed connected with family and friends and “detached” from social media. I did get regular feeding of information from social media and shared these widely but I did my best to emotionally or mentally detach myself from these. I also maximized its use by helping another have a good mood by sharing links to music that inspire, news that encourage, or images that can make us happy.
  • Fourth, I tried to remain physically healthy and active by doing morning or afternoon walks, doing some stretching, and taking my medicines and vitamins.
  • Lastly, I changed my perspective on rest. That is, rest does not always mean we stop but sometimes, it might mean giving ourselves more compassion and space to distance from thoughts that will not help us.

We do not know until when this will really last. But my hope and prayer for people who might have the same mood struggles is this: looking inside will always fail us and we cannot always save the world. Often we should look up instead to our spirituality and widen our view of things.

Above all, know that the power within each of us is like a dynamite waiting to be unleashed to create great changes in the world. There is always room for contemplation and resting, especially for our minds. At the end of it all, the world is worth helping if there is someone left to give it.

About the Author

Sheena Kristine Cases.

Sheena Kristine Cases works with a development and humanitarian organization as knowledge management lead. She also volunteers for Victory Church and the Mood Thrivers Global Community, a support group for people who are struggling with mood disorders. During her free time, she loves to read and learn new things especially in the areas of data analysis, psychology, and evaluation.

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