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How Do I Continue Looking After my Mental Health During this Time?

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We’ve all spent the last year grappling with a very different world around us. This has naturally led to a wide range of negative emotions, from isolation and anxiety to fear and despair. While there have obviously been moments of gratitude, hopefulness and joy, it’s clear that for many people the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic has led to many emotional challenges.

It’s never been more important to cultivate some simple skill-sets that can help us manage in the midst of difficult circumstances. Here are a few recommendations from a range of mental health experts:

  1. Be kind to yourself

Practice self-compassion. Find activities for self-soothing that you know you can reliably turn to when you’re low, whether that’s making yourself a bubble bath or cranking up your favorite comfort-food album.

  1. Have a routine

For many people, the pandemic has upended their daily routines. Try scheduling some regular healthy activities throughout the day, whether that’s a five-minute meditation before work or a daily lunchtime walk with a friend. Research shows that repetitive routines are calming and reduce anxiety.

  1. Take care of your body

Without our normal commutes and social lives, it can be easy to go all day without moving or taking care of our bodies. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Eat healthy. Exercise. Get plenty of sleep.

  1. Get outside

People who spend even five minutes out in nature every day have been shown to have higher self-esteem and a more positive mood. “Nature” doesn’t have to mean somewhere far away, or that you’re doing anything particularly active. Even just mixing things up and sitting on a park-bench can break up the workday and re-motivate you for the rest of the day.

  1. Journal

People process emotions in different ways. Some do best talking about deep topics with close family or friends. But if that’s not you, it can be very healthy and cathartic to write about what’s going on with your inner life and let difficult emotions come to the surface rather than keep them in. In the long-term, journaling can also be useful in looking back on earlier writing and seeing certain themes that emerge, or, conversely, seeing the progress you’ve made with specific challenges in your life.

Jackie Phillips, MD, March 21, 2021