A good friend recently confessed to me that the changes brought by the current social restrictions led her to her first true encounter with depression. She’s far from alone here. The changes the “new normal” has brought along with it have led to a rise in mental illness all over the world. So, today we focus on your mental health, because it is a major key for your wellbeing.
Acknowledging Negative Feelings: A first step towards preserving your mental health
We’re all dealing with our new normalcy differently, and as best as we can. A lot of it depends on our individual circumstances but very few people remain unaffected. With lost routines and most relationships being impacted in some way, some people are faced with new battles regarding mental health while others deal with the exacerbation of preexisting conditions.
No matter where or who we are, it feels like these strange times call for a special effort when it comes to taking care of ourselves and our mental health. With a growing demand to have honest conversations that might help destigmatize mental illness and support people struggling with it.
Honestly? Accepting that we have those negative emotions isn’t easy. For some people, it feels like somewhat of a defeat. It’s far from it. Not only does it take courage, it is also the first step towards feeling better with ourselves. Identifying how the changes in our routines and other aspects of isolation are affecting us can also lead to finding some relief.
Being Kind to Yourself
Accept that no one is at the top of their game. While it may feel like setting productivity bar high is the best way to keep us from stumbling into an emotional rut, in some cases the opposite might actually be true. It’s not about letting go, it’s about being less demanding and avoiding feelings of insufficiency.
Give yourself the chance to fall short of your own expectations without feeling terrible about it. You can even try to accept those days when normalcy feels impossible to achieve. You’re not alone, so consider asking for some time for yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Whether that means taking the afternoon off of work and away from the computer or spending an hour in the tub with your favorite book or album.
There will be days where the best efforts and good intentions will just fall short. Embrace it as a fact of our new normal and when you stumble into one of those bad days, rather than hit your head against the wall, judge yourself harshly and ramp up the frustration, try to do something that you know will bring you joy.
Self-Care in Isolation
There is no one way to go about self-care. So you might have to try a couple of things if you’ve been feeling under the weather.
- Practice mindfulness: For some, meditation has been key in dealing with anxiety in these uncertain times, but there are also other relaxation techniques that include breathing exercises, guided meditation, self-affirmation and progressive relaxation.
- Stay active: Elle Woods said it best: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy”. Physical activity improves your mood and your health, it is also especially important when so much time is being spent indoors. Workout videos of all kinds, durations and intensity can be found online.
- Get some fresh air: If you have a garden try to make good use of it. Spend time outside, maybe plant that vegetable garden you’ve been dreaming of forever. If not (and if it’s safe) try to take walks around the block while minding rules of social distancing.
- Limit screen time and social media: All that onscreen time can backfire and affect us negatively. Impacting productivity, moods and even sleep in the long run. Set limits when it comes to screen time, try to unplug an hour before you go to sleep. Board games, puzzles and books are good ways to end your day and stay away from screens.
- Stay informed but don’t overdo it: Spending your days glued to the news and social media won’t help either. Dedicate a portion of the day to catching up and then try to move on until the next day.
- Live Healthily: A healthy diet seems to be one of the biggest challenges for some when the kitchen is always so close. Try to keep it healthy, giving yourself a cheat day or two to stay motivated.
Ask for Help — Your mental health is critical to your wellbeing
Consider virtual therapy. When anxiety, depression or self-doubt begin interfering with your daily life and work, it may be time to find a professional you can talk to. Mental health specialists belong in your corner, especially at times like these. They provide insight and expertise that’ll make it easier for you to deal with those negative feelings. You wouldn’t hesitate to enlist an orthopedist to treat a broken bone, would you?
Nowadays, the best professionals are available for virtual therapy and apps like Talkspace offer an affordable alternative to therapy if, like others, you’re facing financial challenges.
Mental Health America has created a toolkit to celebrate and educate during this year’s Mental Health Month. The 2020 Tools 2 Thrive kit includes handouts about owning feelings, finding the positive, toxic influences, healthy routines, supporting and connecting to others as well as work sheets and other material.
Remember: Your mental health is as important as your physical health. They go hand in hand. Don’t allow feelings of shame, inadequacy or doubt stop you from getting the help you need. We are all suffering the consequences of this isolation and if we are going to come out of it in good shape, we have to take care of whole selves.
Aline Cerdan Verástegui
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