It’s pretty safe to say that very few people are emotionally thriving during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Although some people are likely coping better than others, widespread closures of schools, job loss, and health-related concerns don’t exactly make for an ideal state of mind.
And while 18.1% of American adults already experienced anxiety disorders, it’s clear that the collective stress of the entire nation has spiked during the last six months.
That said, you don’t have to deal with constant panic and a sense of overwhelming dread on a daily basis. Although there’s a lot that remains outside of our control — from mask-wearing negligence to distance learning decisions — we can retain certain aspects of our independence and improve our overall quality of life amidst all the chaos.
We’re talking about more than managing good hand-washing habits here. In addition to prioritizing your physical safety, you can also take steps to build your mental health back up. Here are a few of our favorite tips that can help you find some peace and tranquility during these uncertain times.
Establish (And Stick To) Your Routine
Whether you were recently laid off or you’re being forced to work from home, it’s likely that your day-to-day life has changed in some pretty major ways since March. You may be trying to juggle homeschooling and work obligations alongside social isolation — and that can be tough on your overall well-being. But even if your daily schedule looks different these days, it’s important to create an itinerary to follow.
Although not every day may look the same, you should avoid sleeping late, staying up all night, and avoiding essential tasks. While it’s fine to give yourself a break (since we could all use one right now) and cut yourself some slack, you should make sure you have a foundation to fall back on.
Limit Your News and Social Media Consumption
Between our Facebook feeds and news shows that run 24/7, you probably feel like it’s necessary to be plugged in at all times. But while coronavirus developments do change rapidly, there’s really no need to have the TV constantly blaring or spend hours doom-scrolling your social media feeds.
In fact, doing so can be incredibly harmful to your mental and emotional health. After you’ve gotten your daily updates, there’s no good reason to take all of that in. Make it a point to disconnect from your devices, particularly at night, and curb your media consumption to relieve stress and anxiety.
Keep a Handle on Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
If the growing popularity of banana bread recipes and the increase of alcohol sales during the pandemic are any indications, most Americans are struggling to cope with this new normal. And while some of us are already back at work, the need for additional caution can often make us turn to habits that don’t really serve our needs. We might indulge in too much junk food, drink a bit too much wine every night, or spend too much on e-commerce sites.
Although it’s important to find a bit of comfort when you can, you’ll also want to make sure you don’t take it too far. If you’re bored or anxious, you might be more likely to engage in these behaviors in an effort to self-soothe. Fortunately, you don’t need to be among the one-third of homeowners who change to a healthier lifestyle due to a kitchen renovation.
Instead, make it a point to shop for healthy snacks at the grocery store, limit how much alcohol you purchase, and come up with some activities that will keep you from spending money on frivolous items online.
Set Aside Time For Physical Activity
By 2027, the wearable technology market is set to reach $150 billion — and there’s no doubt that wearing a Fitbit or Apple Watch can make you more aware of how much physical activity you’re doing (or not doing).
That said, you don’t have to obsessively track your steps or calories burned in order to reap the benefits of regular physical activity. Instead of focusing on weight loss right now, shift your perspective to how exercise makes you feel. Taking a daily walk around your neighborhood or participating in an online yoga class once a week can do wonders for your mental state.
You’ll also have more energy, will be able to focus better, and will sleep more soundly. Whatever kind of physical fitness activity you enjoy, be sure to carve out some time for it. Even if it’s just 20 minutes or so, your body and mind will thank you for it.
Practice Mindfulness and Gratitude
Activities like meditation and mindfulness practice can have overwhelmingly positive effects on mental health. Mindfulness meditation programs have shown well-supported results for patients dealing with depression, chronic pain, and anxiety, among other conditions.
Moreover, practicing gratitude has been shown to make you feel happier. Although it might not seem like there’s a lot to be grateful for during such a scary time, the reality is that expressing your thanks can be a small change that makes a huge impact.
There are lots of ways to practice mindfulness and gratitude in your everyday life, so research what resonates most with you and try it out. It might seem silly at first, but you might be inclined to stick with it once you start to see results.
Seek Out Support When Needed
Of course, being mindful and expressing thanks cannot cure all ills. It’s important to recognize when you’re in a rut and when you really need some extra help. Whether you reach out to loved ones or talk to a mental health professional, there is absolutely no shame in admitting you’re not able to handle all of these new challenges on your own.
By getting the assistance you need, you’ll be in a better position to care for other people in your life. So rather than brushing off your emotions, you’d do well to face them head-on and ensure you have the support you deserve.
Considering the pandemic is far from over (no matter what we would like to believe), it’s clear that many of us will likely need to rely on these mental health tips for weeks and months to come. If nothing else, it’s small comfort to know that we’re all in the same boat — even if we’re more than six feet away from one another.