Looking after your mind is always essential but in our current cultural moment, it’s even more so.
The Conversation surveyed people about their mental health in late April and compared the data to a 2018 survey. The results were wild (though probably not surprising): the 2020 participants were 8x more likely to screen positive for serious mental illness than those in 2018. These results might hit close to home for you (it’s true for us too), so what can we do about it?
We find ourselves in a unique spot during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and as we look ahead to rebuilding our lives on the other side of this global crisis, we’re also looking forward to adding a few things to our mindfulness toolkits.
Here are some steps you can take to rebuild good mental health habits after a global crisis.
Mourn, baby. Our lives are going to look different than they were pre-rona and you’ve got every right to feel some type of way about it. Be sad, be mad, be whatever you need to be. Feel all the feelings. Cry it out. Make some angry art in the middle of the night. Journal about it. Then, when you’re ready…
Let it go. We don’t know what things will be like in a year, but we have control over whether or not we accept what’s happening right now.
Regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof, you’ve likely heard the Serenity Prayer because it’s culturally iconic (you may have seen it in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” or used in Alcoholics Anonymous, etc.). It’s a great reminder, especially now, to only focus on the things in our control so we’ll leave you with it here:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Talk It Out
Therapy can be intimidating but it’s a game-changer for your mental health. If the idea of sharing your deepest darkest secrets with a stranger freaks you out, try thinking of it simply as a safe, confidential space to talk. Therapy can help you see things through an objective lens, assist you in working through repressed emotions from the past, and leave you better prepared for the future. Whether you need to sort out childhood traumas, process grief, or come to terms with living through a pandemic, it’s a great starting point and can benefit everyone.
Unfortunately, therapy can sometimes be expensive, and if cost is an issue, check with your employer, health care provider, or state and local governments about free or low-cost mental health services. If this crisis has shown us anything, it’s that mental health needs to be a bigger conversation for our leaders, and we will likely see reform and more attention paid to it in the future. Who knows? Maybe Oprah will step in and give everyone a therapist.
While only a professional can treat or diagnose a serious mental illness, there are many free resources available to help manage day-to-day emotions and stressors. One of my favorite apps right now is Routines by Care/of. It’s not technically a “mental health app” per se but it’s helping me keep up with a daily morning and evening routine during the Groundhog Day cycle of quarantine. In doing so, I find myself feeling healthier, happier, and more focused during the day.
In addition to habit-forming apps, you can try journaling, meditation, and mindfulness apps. You might also be getting snatched via Zoom and YouTube workouts right now so it only makes sense to use technology to exercise your mind too. Check out some of our other favorites here.
After you’ve found a way to implement tech into your self-care habits, it’s essential to also find spaces in your day to unplug. How you do this is totally up to you. You could try setting office hours and commit to only using screens within this time block, practice no phone Sundays, or pick a landline spot like the kitchen counter to put your phone on and only use it if you’re standing in said spot. Try out different tips and tricks in this vein and see what works best for you.
Keep It Moving
When you exercise your body, you’re giving your mind a workout too. According to Psychology Today, 3 or more 45-60 minute sessions per week of aerobic exercise or resistance training can help treat chronic depression. You can reap these benefits by scheduling in a few fun workouts throughout your week. If you’re lacking the motivation to get your body moving, try out different forms of exercise like kickboxing, running, yoga, or dancing. Stick with whatever feels the most fun for you — I’ll be in my room learning TikTok dances.
Read About It
What’s free, green, and my favorite thing? The local library. While most libraries are closed right now, you can check out ebooks and audiobooks from your library’s app. Escape in a fiction novel or learn new ways to take care of your mind in a non-fiction book. Don’t know where to start? Check out these recommendations from Forbes.
Of course, mental health isn’t linear. Neither is healing. But having a few things in your mental health toolbox can help you manage the day-to-day as we work to rebuild and recover together. What are your favorite mental health habits? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!