If you told me back in January that we would be living in some alternate universe where a virus sweeps through the nation and turns the normalcy we have all grown accustomed to on its head; I would’ve probably scoffed it off as some conspiracy theory. Wildly enough, nearly 7 months into this pandemic and it is clear that this thing is very real. 2020 has been an absolute whirlwind for many of us; from COVID, to lost jobs, to protests against racial injustice and police brutality. We have been subjected to an unusually high amount stress over the last half of the year and it has certainly had an effect on our mental health. We’ve been home nonstop and the one question burning in everyone’s minds is likely to be; when can we all go back to normal? The reality of the situation is, we may never return to the carefree world we once relished in. So, how do we cope with our rapidly changing lives?
I want to give you all some tips on how you can maintain your mental health during this rough climate we are living in.
Put. The. Phone. Down. Log off of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp. Turn off notifications from news apps. Sometimes we become unaware of just how much what we engage in on social media impacts us and the trauma we can experience from using it constantly. The reality is, it has huge implications for our mental health. Log off, limit your time on the apps and replace it with a healthy alternative. Binge watch some tv. Read a book. We have to be purposeful about what we allow in our spaces physically and mentally. Curate you social media timelines to avoid barrages of overwhelming content. Block, delete, mute, repeat.
2. Be intentional about how you spend your time
Many of us are working from home, and for some, it feels like we just can’t get away from work or other life obligations. Schedule breaks throughout your day where you do nothing but cater to you. Engage in your favorite hobby. Turn on a bomb playlist and go for a walk. Take a nap. Do anything you want in that time. Remember that balance is key and there is value in rest and regeneration. The 24/7 grind is unrealistic and you’ll burn out far faster than you think.
3. Mindfulness 101
1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Mindfulness is not a fleeting moment of clarity, but a lifestyle. Mindfulness can be achieved in a host of different methods but the most common and popular is meditation. The goal is the make yourself aware of you thoughts, emotions and sensations moment to moment. Just BE. Acknowledge that you are free to exist in this time and space however you see fit. No rules. No expectations. Just your whole raw being. Often we get caught up in doing, thinking, and working that our inner voice becomes muffled. Mindfulness allows us to slow down and reconnect with ourselves. There are several free apps available on iOS and Android that can help you get started practicing. YouTube is also a great place to find guided meditation exercises.
4. Get out
The CDC recommends that we social distance but that doesn’t mean we can’t go outside at all. Did you know that we need the sun to help make vitamin D in our bodies? Researchers believe Vitamin D deficiency is linked in some way to depression and other mood disorders (think Seasonal Affective Disorder). Go for a walk, ride a bike, go hiking, visit the local lake (not Lake Lanier though). Don’t underestimate the power of fresh air, sun, and physical activity.
5. Back to the basics
Many of us have taken at least one psychology course in our lifetime and are familiar with Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. At the very bottom of this pyramid are our physiological needs; food, sleep, air, shelter. Take an honest look at your current routine. Are you eating well? Are you getting enough quality sleep? Are you incorporating some form of exercise into your routine? Are you keeping on top of your physical health? Remember, a house built on weak foundation is sure to soon crumble! Create a strong foundation for an even stronger self!
5. Be kind to yourself
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your value is directly tied to how much your create, how much you make, or any other unrealistic standard. You are a person and that alone means you are valuable. Give yourself praise and get comfortable being your own cheerleader. Know that you are doing the best you can and this moment and that no good comes from focusing on what you should or could be doing. Comparison is the thief of joy. You are exactly where you are meant to be. Our lives and situations are ever changing and it is imperative that you be gentle with yourself. We are our own worst critic.
7. Seek a professional
Take advantage of the free and low cost virtual therapy options available to you at this time. Unsure where to start? Head to your health insurance providers website and search for qualified professionals in your area. Remember, choosing your therapist is similar to choosing a car; you may test drive a few before you find the right fit. The therapeutic relationship is one of the most important factors in therapy and you are allowed to shop for a professional that meets your needs. Research their preferred therapeutic modality, read reviews, check credentials etc. This is going to be the person you trust with your innermost thoughts.
This list is not exhaustive but it’s a great jumpstart to get you thinking of ways you can maintain your mental health during these unprecedented times. Below you will find links to various resources related to mental health and wellness.
Signed, your friendly neighborhood Board Certified Counselor
-Aisha K. MS, NCC
Aisha graduated with honors from the illustrious North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University with a Bachelors degree in Psychology. She then graduated from Mercer University in 2017 with a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She has devoted much of her time in the field to serving youth and adults with varying degrees of mental illness helping them regain clarity and grow through their day to day struggles. Her specialties include mood and psychotic disorders, behavior modification, low self esteem, anxiety, and LGBTQ+ populations. She currently serves full time as a Bilingual Therapist working with children and their families.
Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine?
Psychological Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency
Therapy for Black Girls
Therapy for Black Men
National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network
Headspace: What is Mindfulness.