During the ongoing pandemic, many of us are fixated on how we can preserve our physical well-being.
Not only do we wear masks, wash our hands, and stay at least six feet away from others in public, but we may also try to boost our immunity with our dietary choices.
For example, diets high in anthocyanins (a type of flavonoid with antioxidant effects) have been associated with a 12% reduced risk of high blood pressure — and antioxidants can also help us fight off a plethora of other diseases.
But it’s not all about bodily health. COVID-19 has undoubtedly taken a toll on our mental health, as well.
As it is, 6.9% of U.S. adults battle depression and 18.1% of Americans have anxiety disorders. Certainly, the coronavirus crisis hasn’t improved the mental health of the nation.
In fact, nearly half of Americans surveyed by a Kaiser Family Foundation poll reported that the pandemic is harming their mental well-being. Unemployment rates have soared from 3.5% to 11.1% since March 2020, which is rightfully burdensome on anyone’s mental health.
But even as you continue to stay home, there are some steps you can take to practice self-care and to improve your overall state of mind.
Establish a Routine
Whether you’re continuing to work from home or you’ve been unemployed for the last few months, your day-to-day schedule has probably changed pretty radically since COVID-19 arrived in the United States.
With so much going on, it’s possible that your sleep cycle has been disrupted or you’ve been unable to separate your work life from family time.
If you haven’t already, you need to establish a routine and set some boundaries for yourself.
This will help manage your feelings of anxiety and can allow you to be more focused, productive, and satisfied throughout the day.
Don’t forget to schedule a time for regular meals, exercise, and fun activities (providing they’re safe)!
It may seem like an inconsequential change, but you’d be surprised by how much your routine can impact your state of mind.
Limit Your Screen Time
We’re spending more time on our phones than ever before.
And while 86% of consumers say that using a search engine allows them to learn something new or important, that doesn’t mean you should spend all day scrolling social media or refreshing your favorite news site.
You’ll need to be mindful of how and when you use your electronic devices — and how you consume media, in general.
Place limits on your phone usage and be sure to put electronic devices away at least a half an hour before you go to bed for a better night’s sleep.
It’s also good to recognize when your screentime is adding to your stress level, even if your usage falls within your pre-determined limit.
Check-in with yourself and take the step to limit those behaviors further, if necessary.
Lower Your Expectations
Many of us already felt an enormous amount of pressure to do it all.
But it’s pretty much impossible to work from home and to either care for or homeschool your child at the same time — all while managing other daily responsibilities and dealing with the stress of a pandemic.
Let go of the idea that it’s doable for anyone. It isn’t.
Instead of falling into the perfectionism trap, embrace reality and focus on one or two high-priority tasks.
You may fall behind on the housework or have to rely more heavily on your partner in certain ways.
Try to find the joy in those everyday moments instead of fixating on how you aren’t “doing enough.”
Remember that you can’t do much for other people if you aren’t caring for yourself!
Help Your Community
At the same time, doing something good for others can often improve our own mental health.
Not only can it provide a bit of a distraction, but you can feel good about providing assistance to others in your community.
While you shouldn’t put yourself or others at risk in your quest to offer a helping hand, there are plenty of ways to be a catalyst for good during the pandemic.
Many cities have mutual aid groups on social media, which can allow you to donate items or provide financial assistance to people in need within your area.
You can drop off groceries or prescriptions to those who are immunocompromised or those in high-risk groups, as well.
Giving blood, donating money to local organizations, or even emailing friends, family members, neighbors, and government representatives can allow you to do some good during the pandemic, as well.
Although you need to attend to your own needs first, focusing on how you can assist others can put some of your worries into perspective.
Seek Out Support
Although it’s a good idea to limit potentially harmful screentime, that doesn’t mean you should check out entirely.
After all, many of us rely on social media and video chatting to stay updated on the lives of our loved ones.
And since in-person interactions need to be limited in order to stop the spread of COVID-19, platforms for digital interactions provide some of the safest ways to stay connected with people we care about.
Check-in with your support system — the people you can count on — on a regular basis through these channels and don’t be afraid to burden a friend or family member if you’re having a rough time.
And if you don’t have loved ones you can go to right now or you feel you need guidance they can’t provide, seek out help from a licensed therapist.
Mental health professionals have used teleconferencing to great effect even before the pandemic began; video chatting with a therapist isn’t really all that different from attending an appointment in person.
There are even electronic messaging options for those who don’t want to video conference.
This can be an excellent way to carve out time for yourself and to zero in on solutions that will help you navigate these uncertain times.
Many of us tend to put our mental health last on the list of priorities or assume (perhaps rightfully) that everyone is having a tough time right now. But that doesn’t mean positive changes can’t be made.
By keeping these tips in mind, you may find yourself in a better emotional place and be better equipped to handle the ever-changing conditions that COVID-19 continues to bring.