Prioritize Your Mental Health During the Pandemic

By Carol Phillips

How is your mental health holding up during these long months of dealing with the consequences of COVID-19? Are you struggling or have you found ways to cope?

We’re all dealing with a wide variety of challenges due to the ongoing pandemic. Our lives have been significantly impacted, and for many people, prioritizing health and wellness has been difficult. Feeling an increased level of stress is common.

We are social beings. Even people who normally describe themselves as introverts are finding it hard to be so isolated as we all try to follow medical experts’ advice regarding social distancing. Previously, we were used to being in the presence of other people, engaging in conversation, working, eating, and having fun together. The absence of these encounters leaves a void that our brains want to fill.

The continuing uncertainty and seclusion we are experiencing can create a negative environment for our mental health and we may feel anxious or depressed. Identifying that it’s a problem is the first step in making changes for the better.

Here are some tips to keep your mental health positive:

Talk yourself out of worrying.

Pay attention to your thoughts and when they become too heavy, consciously think about the positives in your life and what you are grateful for. Also, remind yourself that this situation, albeit feeling incredibly long, is temporary, and will improve.

Focus on others.

Is your spouse okay? Your children, parents, friends? What can you do to support each other during tough times? Helping others is a great way to not overthink your own problems, and you’ll feel better by taking positive steps.

Plan something fun.

What makes you happy and helps you forget your troubles? Give yourself permission to put everything on hold for a few minutes, hours, or a day, or a week! Remind yourself that exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep all contribute to better mental health.

Lazy days.

Are you spending too much time trying to stay busy? Our brains need rest during the day, not just when we’re sleeping. Take some time to let your brain unwind, without feeling guilty.

Laugh.

It’s impossible to be stressed or sad in the midst of a good belly laugh. What makes you laugh? Whether it’s watching your favorite sitcom, a funny movie, or calling a friend with a great sense of humor, schedule some laughter into every day.

Put away your devices.

Being addicted to our phone and email creates a brain that is overworked and sets us up for burnout. Unplug and enjoy some untethered time!

Get outside.

You can’t beat time outdoors. Go for a walk or a hike. You’ll feel better by being in the fresh air and sunshine, enjoying the sights, sounds, and smell of nature. Take a friend or family member, and your pet with you (see below).

Furry friends.

Pets are great for the brain. Did you know that simply petting a dog can reduce your blood pressure? Even watching fish swim in a tank can improve mental health. Walking your dog is a great way get outside every day.

Reach out for help.

It’s okay to not be okay, sometimes. We all go through tough times. If you’re not making progress on your own, reach out for professional help. Don’t know where to start? Call your doctor for a referral. If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at work, give them a call and they will set you up with a counselor.

Hopefully, we are just a few months away from beginning to move beyond this pandemic, where we can begin to embrace our new sense of normal, and literally, be able to embrace our family and friends. We’re all in this together, even when separated, and it will get better.

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.