"Wanna Talk About It?" That's a question many of us are asking each other right now. It's also the name of Netflix's new weekly Instagram Live series, in which stars of the platform's most popular shows talk about how we can take care of ourselves during the coronavirus pandemic. The series kicked off with Noah Centineo of To All the Boys I've Loved Before in conversation with Ken Duckworth, MD, the chief medical officer at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), talking about self-care: how we're struggling and how to prioritize mental health right now.
"I suck at it. I need help," Centineo said of self-care, at the start of the stream. He talked about how, at the beginning of the pandemic, he thought that watching the news and "hours of government updates every day" could provide comfort and control; instead, it became a source of stress.
"You need enough media to know what's happening," Dr. Duckworth said. That might mean checking in just once or twice a day. "If you dose it too high, you might find yourself up half the night worrying about it." Right now, a big part of self-care is using the news and social media in a way that helps you, instead of stressing you out. (Here are eight therapist-approved ways to manage social media right now.)
Centineo went on to describe the ways he's doing self-care right now: taking breaks from work, checking in with friends, making his bed every morning, and journaling. He's also been trying out the Wim Hof Method of controlled breathing with some of his friends.
"We've created a group chat, checking in with each other every day, saying, 'I did my session.' It creates a community aspect," he explained. And once he's done 20 or 30 minutes of breathing and checking in with himself, "I become more open to myself," he says. "My anxiety and my stress fall into a separate category, separate from myself." He's able to journal and write about his feelings from "a bird's-eye perspective."
Dr. Duckworth also encouraged people to view the period of physical isolation "as an altruistic act to help the vulnerable." Centineo agreed, adding, "I'm being isolated with millions of other people around the country and the world. It feels like I'm a part of something greater than myself by doing this. And then I feel so much less isolated when I'm isolated."
Centineo, who said he's currently sheltering in place with his sister and her boyfriend in LA, said he's also using the time to connect with his housemates and act with more of an altruistic, philanthropic attitude. "Developing those communal bonds is so important, and finding little ways to do that are helping me substantially during this time," he said.
Dr. Duckworth distilled the talk down to four tips for dealing with anxiety and prioritizing self-care:
- Keep your anxiety in perspective. "Things are scary and there may be people that you're worried about," Dr. Duckworth said. "But the idea is to not catastrophize. Your anxiety does build negative thinking. Pay attention to that." Here are therapist-approved ways to deal with negative, intrusive thoughts.
- Take care of your body. "Anxiety impacts your body. There's a physiologic component," Dr. Duckworth said. You might feel it as an elevated heart rate or difficulty breathing. He recommended deep breathing and aerobic exercise, which pumps your heart rate up and naturally helps it settle back down.
- Stay connected to other people. If you're not living with family or friends, try texting and FaceTiming to stay in touch.
- Help others as you can. You're being altruistic just by staying at home. If you want and are able to do more, try shopping for a neighbor or ordering from a local business. Dr. Duckworth said that giving to others "helps defray this feeling of helplessness." Here are more ways you can help during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mental health professionals are offering remote tools like teletherapy so you can get help without leaving your home. You can also find resources on NAMI's website. If you're having a mental health crisis, you can text "NAMI" to 741741 to connect with the National Crisis line.