Now more than ever, it is important to not only be aware of mental health but prioritize it as well.

By Crystal Lemus 

At this moment, I think it is fair to say that many of us, if not all of us, are experiencing some level of anxiety- whether that’s over the unknown, worrying about our loved ones, jobs, finances, or the future. All of this added to the fact that we are stuck at home and unable to carry out normal everyday life allows anxiety, worry, and mental unease to go into overdrive. 

Now more than ever, it is important to not only be aware of mental health but prioritize it as well. There are small steps you can take to improve your mental health, some of which include the following: 

Connect

When we are isolated from other people, it can have a hugely negative impact on our brains dramatically undermining our well-being. However, extensive research shows that social support improves our mental health. While this is drastically hindered by self-isolation, it does not become impossible. 

What you can do: 

  • Make a continued effort to phone and FaceTime your close friends and family. Even if you do not normally connect with them- now is a good time to make it a daily habit. 
  • Listen and be in the moment with people rather than thinking of what you are going to say next. 
  • Pick up the phone rather than sending an e-mail or text message. 

Observe. 

Observing is about being mindful. Mindfulness is about noticing what is going on around us, taking notice of sounds, scents, sensations, and our breathing. Doing this quietens the constant chatter that typically runs through our mind and enables anxiety to build. If you find the idea of this difficult, simply make a point to notice things that you would normally overlook. The weave of the fabric on your couch, that shape of the clouds you can see from your window, the crunch you hear while eating snacks at your desk- it should not feel like a big effort. 

What you can do: 

  • Breathe- it sounds silly but we often hold our breath for long periods of time when we are feeling anxious. Make conscious efforts to breathe deeply once an hour. 
  • Make an effort to notice the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes you encounter during your daily tasks- this can be done at any time.

Volunteer.

Selflessness is closely linked to our well-being, triggering the reward mechanisms in the brain. Giving to others is also good for us and has the added benefit of being food for others as well. This is more difficult if you cannot physically see people but there are still many ways that you can volunteer. 

What you can do: 

  • If you can still get out, offer to help someone who cannot by getting their shopping for them or picking up their prescriptions.
  • Call someone who you know may be anxious or lonely and simply listen. 
  • If you are working from home and have some spare time on your hands, offer up your skills and capabilities to someone who could use your help. 

Introduce Movement. 

It is widely known that the impact of continued physical activity helps the frontal lobe of the brain (the area that helps us with higher cognitive functions such as planning and organizing) re-energize. Exercise has also been shown to ward off depression, decrease anxiety and rebalance the hormones in our bodies. Again, this can be hard if you are stuck inside but there are still ways one can remain physically active. 

What you can do: 

  • Make sure you get out every day at least once or twice a day to walk or run. If you have a garden or have other outdoor projects, devote some time to those.  
  • Get up at least every 45 minutes and walk around your house, jump in place, or stretch. 
  • Find an online exercise class that suits your fitness level- YouTube is filled with these! 

Develop New Skills and Knowledge. 

We evolved to be curious. Life-long learning has been shown to positively impact confidence, self-esteem, self-efficacy, life-satisfaction, capacity to cope and general well-being. 

What you can do: 

  • Watch a Ted Talk, watch documentaries, listen to podcasts. 
  • Take an online course in that language you’ve always wanted to learn, or subject you’ve always been interested in- several colleges and universities are offering free courses at this time. 
  • Learn to knit, garden, play the guitar… take this time to be creative. 
  • Read, read, and read some more. 

You may find it helpful to make a list of these and make day-by-day blocks that fit your schedule. What is most important to remember is that although these general principles are globally applicable, we are all different- these individual aspects need to be tailored to what works best for you. 

This time is daunting, indeed. But by (C)onnecting, (O)bserving, (V)olunteering, (I)ntroducing movement, and (D)eveloping new skills, we can restructure the way we think about staying home and really use this as a time to prioritize our mental health and wellbeing. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *