There are a lot of articles currently available with advice and opinions on what we can do to stay physically healthy during this pandemic. These are very important and necessary, however I do think that it is also important to talk about our mental health during this time. I’ve compiled a list of some of the things that I believe to be some of the most helpful for taking care of our mental health as well as examples on how to implement them into your day to day.
-Stay in touch with social supports: friends, family, colleagues, treatment team (therapist, dietician, GP, psychiatrist)
-Utilize FaceTime, ZOOM, voice memos, phone calls > emails, texts, DMs
-Get creative- have a happy hour, have a themed costume “party”, watch a Netflix show together, play a board game/video game, have a dance party, eat dinner together.
-In times of uncertainty and increased anxiety, having things that are familiar can be very helpful in coping. I encourage clients to maintain their morning and nighttime routines as a way of bookending their days.
-What did those routines look like prior to all of this? Maybe get those back in action and on track. Maybe there are a couple things that you might want to change or add.
-Now is a great time to implement new routines as well. In times of change (think new job, move, etc.) things are already up in the air. We can choose what the new habits and routines are. Maybe we meditate briefly in the morning before we get ready to start our day. Maybe we practice deep breathing and writing in a gratitude journal before we go to sleep as part of winding down and getting our bodies ready for sleep.
-Now is a great time to practice what ACTUALLY makes you feel good vs. what is convenient. IE: Watching Netflix in your pjs all day does NOT make anyone feel better. Take the shower, get dressed, and maintain your morning and evening routines. Take a bubble bath, go for a run, or call your bestie. What do you need in the moment? Now is a great time to check in with ourselves and see what we need. Maybe it’s a nap. Or a Disney movie.
-Gratitude journal- at the end of each day, practice writing down 3 things that you are grateful for from that day in a journal- and then a little blurb about why. For example, if I put my mom, that may seem like a given. But why her on this particular day? Or if I put zippers, why am I feeling that way about them today? Date each entry and try doing this every day. It can be really helpful in times of high stress and uncertainty to focus on “what went right”.
-Families- really focusing on eating meals together- especially dinner. During the meal talk about highs and lows from the day. Everyone shares one of each. This normalizes struggle, focuses on positive, and allows you to connect.
-A lot of places of worship are holding online services to support people in continuing to feel connected.
-Have activities and things to look forward to. This could be a lot of things. Having something that you are excited about at the end of the week or day gives you something to look forward to. It improves mood not only during the thing itself, but also during the anticipation leading up to it. Maybe it’s for a walk or a costume happy hour over Zoom with a group of friends. Get creative.
-Practice doing one thing at a time. This can be really helpful in being present and in decreasing anxiety.
-Practice noticing your 5 senses in any given moment. I like encouraging clients to do this when they brush their teeth or wash the dishes. We’ve done this so many times; our heads are never actually focused on the activity. Go through your senses. What are you smelling as you wash the dishes? The lemon sent of the soap? Maybe mixed with whatever you cooked for dinner. Doing this can help bring us into the current moment.
-Meditation. There are a lot of great apps out there. Headspace has a free trial component that can at least familiarize you enough with the basics that you can then search out on YouTube, etc. ones that work for you. Calm is another great app.
-Try being present WHERE YOU ARE.
-Emotional check-ins can feel hard, especially if you have never done it before. It’s a lot like working out in that to get the benefit, you need to do them regularly. Start with once a day either in the morning or evening for 5 or 10 minutes. The more specific you can be the better. Words like bad or upset are less specific than words like “scared”, “frustrated”, or “hurt”. Once you become more aware and specific about what you’re feeling, it can help to decrease the intensity of the feeling as well as maybe give you some insight on how you might make a change or help yourself feel better.
-What is your body needing? Does it feel tense? Could you go for a walk? Practice some deep breathing? Practice scanning your body slowly. As you are thinking about each part, what do you notice? If you recognize how your body is feeling you can also connect it to how your body responds to your various emotions. If you can notice these signs earlier, it can be helpful in implementing a way of coping (like deep breathing or a call with your besite) earlier- so that you don’t end up getting to a higher level of anxiety.
This is such a crucial thing that can help with mood and is an important part of maintaining a routine. Making sure that you maintain your normal sleep schedule helps with setting you up for the rest of your day. It is also important to make sure that you are not sleeping all day as this can have a negative impact on mood.
FOOD & WATER
Making sure that our bodies are getting what they need is always important. It is even more important when we are going through strange and uncertain times. This not only keeps us physically healthy, it is also key in regulating mood and giving us a sense of strength and capability during our day.
MOVE YOUR BODY
-Virtual workout classes
-Walks/runs. Try going to a new neighborhood or street each time so you feel like you’re still getting to explore. Get to know a new area.
-Dance- This is a fun and easy way to move your body. It doesn’t require equipment and incorporates music as an additional coping tool. Virtual group dance parties have gained in popularity over the past few weeks as well, so this could also be an opportunity for socializing.
-Sit outside on the balcony/patio/roof/bench
-At the very least, open your windows and let some of that fresh air in
-Life doesn’t have to be entirely “on hold”…. And you can feel more stuck/depressed/anxious if you approach this time in this way.
-Take an online class, read a book, practice the guitar or French, learn to knit
-Limits on news/media/social media
-Follow some positive accounts
-Working from home can be tough. How do we create a separation? If you have a home office, try only working from there and avoid checking emails, etc. when you are not there. If you have a desk, try only working from there. Having a set guideline for yourself about when you begin and end your day can help you to feel like you can unplug outside of that time. Maybe practice a visualization that helps you to experience the separation when you end the day. For example, I have often have client picture shutting their office door/laptop or hanging up the phone as the cutoff for the end. For me it’s the visualization of closing a book and putting it back on a shelf.
PURPOSE -What do I hope to learn/take away from this experience?
-What do you want to get out of this? Not as in a monetary kind of way. This experience is hard and unknown, and brings up a lot of issues/struggles/problems for a lot of people. But if we can shift our thinking just a little….
-For example, maybe it’s realizing how important connecting to our loved ones really is. Does this motivate us to be more present with them once this is all over? Or maybe the opportunity to slow down a bit more right now helps us to see how this could actually be beneficial for us going forward. Maybe we practice being more mindful with this intention. On a smaller scale, learning more about ourselves during this time is hopefully a priority. What are the things that make us actually feel good? More connected? Maybe its noticing how important outdoor time is for you or how much you miss being at the beach.
Resources/Activities/Concerts for free online:
Positive Social Media Accounts:
*These will surely give you suggestions to additional positive accounts or help you have some ideas to search on your own.