5 Easy ways to Preserve Your Mental Health
If there is one thing we can all agree is that we are all “Covid’-out”. I mean the amount of information and misinformation out there is insane. As you are sifting through this information, you have other worries e.g. will my children be ok? what about my parents? is our food supply sufficient? will I still have a job when this is all over? am I at risk of catching the disease? These worries and the gloomy messages all around are enough to cause severe illness and depression. In this article, I focus on some of the ways you can maintain your positivity and preserve your mental health in these uncertain times.
1. Limit your Information Intake
Before writing this article, I conducted two experiments. On one of the days, I binged on all and any news and information relating to coronavirus. This included coronavirus heat maps, rising death tolls, rising number of patients, border and city lockdowns, the impact of coronavirus on economies of the world. In a sense, that day I was the world expert on coronavirus. The next day, I shut off from all social media and news relating to corona and instead focused on pending assignments, connection with my family and exercise. Here’s what I learned.
On my coronavirus expert day, the constant bombardment of negative news left me hyperalert, irritable and anxious. It certainly felt like the world was one gloomy and sad place. In contrast, on the day that I blocked off all social media, I experienced genuine peace, happiness, and increased productivity. I was generally upbeat and engaged.
To maintain your positivity, limit daily information uptake by taking time off social media, news, emails, etc. Most mobile devices have app limit capabilities. Set a limit on the amount of time you intend to spend on social media and news apps. If you must know what is going on, choose when you are going to look at the news and from what sources you shall get your information. For example, you may decide to check the news or social media once or twice a day and that you shall only log into credible news sources.
2. Take Care of Your Physical Health
Most countries have imposed lockdowns and restrictions on people’s movement and work-from-home policies have taken effect. Despite these movement restrictions, experts are increasingly recommending that people should schedule exercise in their daily routines. Why? Because exercising contributes to positive mood enhancement, alleviates long-term depression and boosts mental health. Find an exercise routine that works for you and adheres to social distancing requirements. The Atlantic has some great suggestions on how to do this.
Apart from exercise, eat a balanced diet and hydrate by taking at least 8 glasses of water each day. Psychologists recommend reducing the intake of comfort foods high in sugar and saturated fats as they contribute significantly to stress, irritability, and anxiety.
Finally, create a sense of structure and routine in your daily life. In as far as possible, create routines that emulate your life before Covid-19 e.g. when to start the day, mealtimes and bedtimes.
3. Practice Self-Care
Curve out some “me-time” at the end of each day and do something that you really enjoy. The list of things you can do is endless: listening to music or podcasts, reading a book, taking long baths, journaling or watching your favourite tv or movie series. You can also use this time to learn new skills e.g. learning a new language, musical instrument, drawing, computer programming, MS Office skills, cooking, DIY and life hacks and many more.
4. Check Your Thoughts
In a recent Forbes interview Dr. Kelly Vincent, a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in Encinitas, California stated that “fear feeds off of negative thoughts and beliefs. Dr. Vicent recommended reframing your thoughts so as to manage your emotions better. For example, “this is a scary time right now, but I choose to focus on what I can control—like washing my hands, avoiding going outside and engaging in self-care activities.” Apart from that, elevate your level of self-awareness and mental health by acknowledging your fears and reactions. Allow yourself time to reflect on what you are feeling and how you may be reacting to any fears and uncertainties of the future.
5. Pray and Meditate
As a practicing Christian, I cannot fail to mention the place of prayer and meditation in boosting your mental health. When I read my bible and pray my faith is increased and my fears seem smaller in comparison to the plans that God has over my life. In fact, research shows that people who pray to a loving and protective God are less likely to experience anxiety-related disorders — worry, fear, self-consciousness, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behavior — compared to people who pray but don’t really expect to receive any comfort or protection from God. Praying shifts focus from the problems we face to God, who is bigger than any problem we shall ever face. Therefore, find time to pray and seek comfort from God.
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