Mental health is coming to the fore of public discussion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are frankly sharing their struggles, both their emotions as well as the tangible effects they have on their lives, acknowledging the importance of mental health and supportive measures openly. If you are looking for ways to bolster your emotional wellness and stay balanced, check out these simple life hacks.
Dealing with feelings of anxiety or stress right now is an experience shared by most people in our communities, but its commonality doesn’t mean it’s not important or serious. It’s good to take steps like the ones below to keep yourself feeling resilient; but if you are struggling, it’s absolutely valid to reach out for professional mental health support.
That being said, we have some simple ways to kick-start some positivity!
1. Find gratitude
This isn’t as reductive as simply trying to “look on the bright side”! Focusing on positives in your situation doesn’t cancel out the negatives also affecting you or others. However, finding concrete things that you can appreciate daily can help you feel grounded and have other benefits.
For my part, I love working from home: not having to transit to work, and getting to spend time with my cat, houseplants, and tea collection all day has helped my productivity. I am also feeling a strong connection with the beautiful blossoming in the natural world that accompanies spring in the northern hemisphere - it’s hard not to feel joy when you smell lilacs on the breeze! What small thing are you grateful for today?
2. Find connection
This is a common thread in much of the dialogue around COVID-19, and for good reason! Being physically distanced doesn’t mean we have to be emotionally isolated. Even when you’re physically isolated, give a smile, wave, and hello to your neighbors and people you pass by at a safe distance while walking.
Connecting can be as simple as increasing the frequency of your family text chain, or as involved as making sure the seniors in your life are set up with technology to video call, or even starting a letter-writing campaign. Proactively reaching out to those you care about can strengthen the bonds of your community and your personal relationships. You might be surprised how much staying in touch can help keep you smiling!
3. Find release
Nothing kicks the blues to the curb quite like good old endorphins! Endorphins are neurochemicals produced in the body that can increase your sense of happiness and wellbeing. They are triggered in response to certain activities, the most well-known being exercise, but you can also experience endorphin release during meditation, creative activities, and even eating spicy foods!
Keep exercise in your daily routine, whether it’s jogging at a safe distance from others in your neighborhood, or online yin yoga classes to get the benefits of both exercise and meditation. Belly laughter can also trigger endorphin release, so fire up your favorite silly movie on Saturday night!
4. Find space
You may find that a break from the routines of your everyday life can be very helpful. One option is to take intentional breaks from screens. Many people, myself included, have had their screen time massively increase. Some days, between working from home, video chats, and streaming services, I’m on a screen almost all day from breakfast to bedtime. The constant inundation of information and the state of emotional availability for answering texts, messages, and emails, can overload our brains, not to mention potentially cause eye strain or interfere with our ability to rest.
It’s okay to take a short hiatus from the news and our screens, even if it means we’re out of touch for a little while. It’s also important while distancing with others, to still get some time to be by yourself; you might find taking a solo, safely distanced walk around your neighborhood - without your phone - can help you take a break from your constant companions, whether they’re your family or your laptop!
5. Find compassion
Aim some kindness at others, and at yourself. Only you can gauge your capability for helping others at the moment, whether that is physical, emotional, or financial support. Compassion fatigue is very real! However, if you have the capacity, you might find that pitching in to help those who are vulnerable at this time can provide you a potent sense of accomplishment.
A good place to start would be touching base with local volunteer groups, or if you personally know any seniors or other at-risk individuals, reaching out to see if they need any assistance, like running errands. As for yourself, it’s worth resisting the instinct to judge yourself. Take the word “should” out of your vocabulary! Be gentle with yourself, your needs, and your abilities at this very stressful time - they might differ from your past baseline. Offering some care to your own heart can help you come out of tough moments feeling optimistic.