Because of COVID-19, we are now living in a very different world than we were just a few months ago. Our “new normal” includes standing far apart from neighbors, self-isolating in our homes, figuring out how to work effectively remotely and finding a new balance with other family members now stuck at home. Some of us have suffered from COVID-19 ourselves, and are coping with recovery alone, and more and more of us are mourning loved ones lost to COVID-19 without the social support and traditions normally available in times of grieving. 

Although many people are experiencing these traumas, our internal struggles are our own. The sensation of having lost control of our lives and the parts of ourselves – such as careers, financial foundations, and community – that shape intimate aspects of our self identities is extremely challenging and has struck without warning. 

According to a March Kaiser Family Foundation poll, almost half of Americans feel that the COVID-19 crisis has caused deterioration in their mental health. And many people were not prepared for this sudden change, lacking knowledge of mental health support services available to them or access to those services in general. 

It is fortunate that this time of isolation comes in an era of unprecedented resources and support being available online. Communicating with loved ones remotely, but also seeking support, resources, advice, and compassion from the larger human community, is possible today like never before. 

Here are some practical tips on how to access this kind of support online, to stop neglecting your mental health in this crucial time: 

Prioritize real-time connection
Sticking to emails might feel like enough, but texting live or hopping on a video call with loved ones or a support group can make all the difference. It’s important to hear feedback and words of compassion in the here and now.

Find your virtual crew
Whether on forums like Reddit, or through Instagram tags or Facebook groups, or even online support groups and chats, it’s important to find ‘your people’ in this time. From sharing your struggles to swapping memes about your interests, immersing yourself in a community is a motivating way to keep moving forward and share in each other’s struggles and triumphs. This is especially important if you struggle with other health issues or have special emotional needs, because relying only on friends and families is unrealistic both for you and your loved ones. 

Every day: Share one feeling and ask someone how they feel
It can be tempting to shut yourself in and distract yourself from how you’re feeling, but getting in the daily habit of telling one person how you feel can help you access your emotions and begin to process them. Sharing how you’re feeling reduces anxiety and stress, and strengthens bonds with the loved ones. It’s just as important to ask someone else how they are feeling. It’s both empowering and humbling to empathize with others, to learn to regulate our own emotions and really be there for someone else. It can also help us put our own situations in perspective.

Reach out to a professional
Whether or not seeing a therapist was part of your self-care routine before this crisis, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. Telehealth, that is virtual therapy, or professionally-led support groups are available no matter where you are, work with a range of health plans, and often offer sliding scale fees if you don’t currently have insurance. Don’t assume it is not affordable or that your needs are not severe enough. Preventative care is just as important when it comes to mental health as any other aspect of your well being. 

You can get started on at least some of these tips today – right now. Reach out a hand; there are so many hands waiting to reach right back.