These days, you may feel swallowed whole by the COVID-19 frenzy.
The news has it constantly on our minds, and our federal government’s response until very recently was naive at best and irresponsible at worst. We are given mixed signals as to how we should respond and the timelines under which we should respond.
The only clear bit of information we have is that we must socially distance, or keep away from people, for our own and others’ safety. The act of social distancing may come more easily for some of us and prove quite difficult for others, so it is essential to keep a proverbial eye on our mental health to make sure the pandemic hysteria is not taking too great a toll on our minds and bodies.
Mental health functions on a continuum, which means we each fall somewhere on that spectrum between healthy and unwell. The goal is to work at mental health maintenance as frequently as we can in order to self-actualize, or function at our highest level.
These are 7 ways in which you can check in with your mental health while socially distancing.
1. Prioritize mental clarity.
Take some time to touch base with your feelings. In doing so, it is crucial to recognize when you are out of alignment with reality. This is a balance that functions in opposites: If you have been indoors and alone for too long, go outside and make a phone call. If you haven’t been feeling yourself because you haven’t had free time, devote some time to yourself and tune out from the world for a few hours. In the former, you should spend some time afterward in personal reflection; in the latter, a component of your time should be spent reflecting.
Mental clarity is the first step to mental health progress. If you are unable to see fundamental facts about yourself and your life clearly, you cannot think clearly and you will not function honestly. If you do not recognize your problems, you will never discover their solutions.
2. View worry realistically.
In today’s climate, it’s easy to become an alarmist. You can prevent alarmism through the application of worry check.
Worry is a self-preservation measure, which means we do it because we want to protect ourselves from harm or suffering. What effectively happens is we sometimes use it to preempt our fight-or-flight survival mechanism, instead. Acute stress is supposed to trigger sympathetic nervous system activation, but irrational or exaggerated worry keeps us in a heightened and consistent state of anxiety.
Worry check means viewing worry logically. You are not safer for worrying, and you did not endanger yourself by not worrying in the past. Working on yourself to become mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually stronger is the surest way of preventing unnecessary bad things from occurring, and responding healthily and preparedly if bad things occur. Remember that without this work, any range of setbacks can unhinge you. Worry impedes action, and action is essential in the groundwork you must lay to create stability.
3. Use mindfulness as a reset.
Quieting your mind is a commonly-used and effective mental health tool. Try meditating through simple focused breathing exercises. Inhale through your nose for five seconds, then hold for five seconds and exhale for another five. Repeat this technique while taking inventory of the sounds around you. Note the sensation of sitting or standing. Be present. Remember to forgive yourself if your mind wanders from your breath and present activity. Gently guide your mind back to focus on your breath.
Focused breathing, meditation, and mindfulness activities are helpful specifically when you feel disruption or disconnection with yourself.
4. Exercise movement practices.
If you aren’t accustomed to having so much free time, knowing what to do with that time might prove challenging. It is also easy to lose a sense of time management, especially if routine is typically how you keep to schedule.
Though this dilemma falls under the broader heading of practicing mental clarity, one key method of centering is to prioritize movement. Movement does not mean you have to run a half-marathon! Even with limited movement, the purpose is the awareness of our physical presence rather than the quantifiable amount of physical exertion.
Whether movement is exhaustive or incremental, or performed to begin the day, to end the day, or intermittently, it is a necessary, motivational change-of-pace.
5. Get enough sleep and practice conscious eating.
Do not discount the importance of getting the proper amount of sleep for your body. Without the requisite number of sleep hours we each need, our brains cannot properly function. This results in forgetfulness, distraction, and even visual impairment. Anticipate mood swings to accompany all of that, especially when you aren’t eating judiciously.
Sleeping and eating healthily require self-awareness, which is one reason why mental clarity is so crucial. But without rest and nourishment, we cannot achieve proper mental clarity, ad infinitum — see how this functions cyclically?
6. Be grateful.
The manifesting community regard gratefulness as the most central component to personal achievement and self-actualization. Whether you put stock in this belief system or not, gratefulness is a healthy practice.
Some people make lists on paper of three things for which they are grateful per day. You can think it or say it aloud — whatever works best for you. Just remember to feel gratefulness as you perceive these blessings, or else you aren’t doing it correctly. Detachment does not serve you in this activity. The goal is a mild sense of euphoria during the activity that will foster an uplifted mood and positive thoughts throughout the day.
7. Hold yourself accountable.
Set goals and keep them. Do so in a way that makes sense for you.
One technique is to make a list of obligations and activities based on the completion time each obligation or activity potentially requires. The downfall of this technique is you may not complete all of your tasks that day, and most people tend to save the most challenging ones for last.
Another strategy is to block out time, for example, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for specific activities. Designate Tuesday and Thursday to other specified activities. The block scheduling method is effective for those who procrastinate or detract from course easily. A schedule can also include recreational activities, like baking a pie or watching a movie. It’s not all work during quarantine.
There are a myriad of ways to go about personal accountability, and the secret behind action is to start small and incentivize. Accountability matters because we slowly begin to feel lost without goals and aspirations. Over time, that adrift feeling can become disorientation, and disorientation can become a sense of purposelessness. Mental health practices seek to avoid such situations.
These are uncharted waters for millions-to-billions of us around the world. Know you are not alone, and take your mental health seriously. The outcome is in our control. We do not want to mess up our response because we are mentally, emotionally, or spiritually unwell. Lives are at stake.