Enforced lockdowns, loss of financial security, the need to cope with juggling work from home with educating children, along with the loss of social connections and freedoms, has left the majority of us reeling.
Experts warn that even after the immediate physical dangers of the pandemic have passed, many will be left with mental and emotional scars that they will continue to struggle with for years.
This makes taking care of ourselves right now more important than ever before. The Harvard Medical School Health Blog recently outlined six important ways in which we can mitigate the effects of all that we are coping with, so that we can cope with the stressors we are having to face now, and emerge on the other side strong enough to cope with what comes next.
Dr. Ben Crocker warns that many of us are taking on too much in terms of working remotely or on the front lines, while simultaneously taking care of the needs of a home and family. We may feel pressured to overload our schedules or commit to too much, which can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
“Allow yourself to physically, mentally, emotionally check out on a regular basis,” Dr. Crocker advises. “Intentionally create ‘shutdown’ time in your schedule. This can be healthy time alone, for meditation and quietude.”
Many have found that snacking constantly from boredom or stress has become part of their daily lives during this difficult time. We need to be extremely cautious about eating too much or eating the wrong things, however, because now, more than ever, we need to maintain optimal health. (Related: Physical health leads to good mental health.)
“It is more important than ever to appropriately fuel our bodies and to do so in a mindful way,” notes Dr. Helen Delichatsios. “We have increased physical and mental stress, and healthy eating is vital in supporting our immune system to stave off illness and recuperate faster if we fall ill.”
So, instead of reaching for a chocolate bar, why not try out a healthy new recipe? Try to also keep a variety of healthy snacks available in the house. These need not be expensive either. For example, a piece of fruit is delicious, inexpensive and healthy.
Since popping out to the grocery store at a moment’s notice is not really an option anymore, try to plan carefully in advance what your family will eat for the next week or two and ensure that you buy the right foods when you do shop.
With lockdowns dragging on week after week, it can become easy to just be lazy and lie on the couch watching endless movies or TV shows. Doing so can leave us feeling drained and miserable, however.
Regular exercise helps to provide a healthy outlet, but that does not mean that we have to spend hours each day exercising. What is important is to set small goals and then to work toward achieving them.
Dr. Amy Wheeler advises that we focus on what she calls SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timed. These should be small and easy to achieve, which will motivate us to keep going. Exercising regularly also has an added benefit in that it helps facilitate the next step: Getting enough rest.
Getting enough sleep is vital to maintaining immunity and mental well-being. To promote healthy sleep, try to maintain a regular routine. Set an alarm and get up at a set time each day. And try to also go to bed at the same time every day.
It is also important to spend time outside in the light to ensure that your circadian rhythm continues to operate correctly.
Virtual dinner parties, quiz nights, and family game evenings over Zoom all provide important ways in which we can stay connected to friends and family. It can feel a bit strange and awkward to “meet” with people in this way, but since humans are social creatures, maintaining social connections is a vital part of maintaining our mental health.
While acknowledging all that we have lost is important, so is focusing on what is good and positive in our lies. So, practice gratitude, expressing it in your prayers, writing down the things you are grateful for in a journal, or chatting about the good things that happened during the day with your family. Doing so helps us to remember that even in these dark times, there are still things that make us happy and make life worth living.
Discover more tips for maintaining mental well-being at Mental.news.
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