Sheet Metal Workers' International Association

Local 276

Mental Health Wellness Tips

1. Stick to a routine.
Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.
2. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or a facial. Put on some bright colors. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.
3. Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes.
If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues. If you are high risk or living with those       who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.
4. Find some time to move each day,       again daily for at least thirty minutes.
If you don’t feel comfortable going       outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes,       and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!
5. Reach out to others, you guessed it,       at least once daily for thirty minutes.
Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls,       texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support. Don’t       forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates       with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc—your       kids miss their friends, too!
6. Stay hydrated and eat well.
This one may seem obvious, but stress       and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging,       forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some       good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook       something new!
7. Develop a self-care toolkit.
This can look different for everyone. A       lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven       senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and       proprioceptive (comforting pressure). An idea for each: a soft blanket or       stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music,       lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted       blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is       wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw       are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum,       Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are       also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to       help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin       they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when       overwhelmed. 
8. Spend extra time playing with       children.
Children will rarely communicate how       they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and       communication through play. Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes       of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Understand that       play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their       world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and       experiencing in the now.
9. Give everyone the benefit of the       doubt, and a wide berth.
A lot of cooped up time can bring out       the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not       be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to       not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges       and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make       it through this.
10. Everyone find their own retreat       space.
Space is at a premium, particularly with       city living. It is important that people think through their own separate       space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a       place where they can go to retreat when stressed. You can make this place       cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and       “forts”. It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other,       we have our own special place to go to be alone.
11. Expect behavioral issues in       children, and respond gently.
We are all struggling with disruption in       routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by       others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect       increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating       or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Do not introduce major       behavioral plans or consequences at this time—hold stable and focus on       emotional connection.
12. Focus on safety and attachment.
We are going to be living for a bit with       the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling       children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of       entertainment in confinement. We can get wrapped up in meeting       expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary       and unpredictable times for children. Focus on strengthening the       connection through time spent following their lead, through physical       touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal       reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.
13. Lower expectations and practice       radical self-acceptance.
This idea is connected with #12. We are       doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress. This does       not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what       psychologists call “radical self acceptance”: accepting everything about       yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame,       or pushback. You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent       for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible       situation. 
14. Limit social media and COVID       conversation, especially around children.
One can find tons of information on       COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is       often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few       trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a       few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you       consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily). Keep news and alarming       conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything,       and can become very frightened by what they hear.
15. Notice the good in the world, the       helpers.
There is a lot of scary, negative, and       overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are       also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one       another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy       information with the hopeful information. 
16. Help others.
Find ways, big and small, to give back       to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with       elderly neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping       others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control. 
17. Find something you can control, and       control the heck out of it.
In moments of big uncertainty and       overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your       bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your       toys. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are       chaotic.
18. Find a long-term project to dive       into.
Now is the time to learn how to play the       keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of       Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an       8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new       town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy,       distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the       outside world.
19. Engage in repetitive movements and       left-right movements.
Research has shown that repetitive       movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc)       especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can       be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments       of distress.
20. Find an expressive art and go for       it.
Our emotional brain is very receptive to       the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find       something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing,       playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel. It is a       very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!
21. Find lightness and humor in each       day.
There is a lot to be worried about, and       with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each       day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we       all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.
22. Reach out for help—your team is       there for you.
If you have a therapist or psychiatrist,       they are available to you, even at a distance. Keep up your medications       and your therapy sessions the best you can. If you are having difficulty       coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people       on the ready to help you through this crisis. Your children’s teachers       and related service providers will do anything within their power to       help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of       being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges. Seek       support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel       connected. There is help and support out there, any time of the       day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.
23. “Chunk” your quarantine, take it       moment by moment.
We have no road map for this. We don’t       know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now.       Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming       issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called       “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that       feels manageable. Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a       time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far       ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a       time, and move through stress in pieces.
24. Remind yourself daily that this is       temporary.
It seems in the midst of this quarantine       that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching       ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is       very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of       time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeing       free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.
25. Find the lesson.
This whole crisis can seem sad,       senseless, and at times, avoidable. When psychologists work with trauma,       a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them       find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the       meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each       of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to       change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our       world?