If you have noticed that throughout the pandemic you have been feeling lonely, bored, anxious, depressed, or unmotivated, you are not alone! Perhaps you’ve found yourself feeling less interested in doing activities you enjoy or preferring to stay in your pajamas binge-watching TV. While it is understandable and common to have days like this, we want to ensure you’re moving in a direction of health during COVID. Here are four easy steps to be more proactive in creating sustainable improvements in your mental health:
- Attention to Appearance: We’ve all been there, waking up five minutes before an online meeting, with barely enough time to change into a clean shirt. When we fall out of our normal routine of getting ready for the day, our hygiene can get neglected. This can result in you feeling physically uncomfortable, less motivated, grumpy or worsen your body image. Plan on getting ready for each day as if you were going to leave the house. This often includes taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and changing into a new outfit. By putting a little more effort into your appearance, you may find yourself feeling more confident, happier, and more willing to socialize.
- Be Physically Active: Due to the pandemic, many of us are inside more often, and we may spend over 8 hours in just one room! There is as many mental health, as there are physical health benefits to exercising. When we are active, we tend to feel less stressed, happier, more alert, motivated and refreshed. Consistent cardiovascular activity is linked to having positive effects similar to taking antidepressant medication! Introduce something for a few minutes, such as walking outdoors, stretching, pushups, or dancing to your favorite song between an online meeting. You can do something longer, like hiking on a trail, walking your dog, going for a bike ride, or joining a local running group in town.
- Create a Routine: Filling your days with different activities is beneficial and adds structure. Sometimes we tend to get stuck because we don’t know what to do after the work or school day is over. When you have something to look forward to, you’ll feel more motivated and have more meaning in your life. Here are some ideas: Cooking Mondays (e.g. baking a new recipe; Italian food night), Self Care Tuesdays (e.g. going to bed early, scheduling a call with a friend), Hobby Wednesdays (e.g. painting figurines, making a collage) Outdoors Thursdays (e.g. having a bonfire), Spirituality Fridays (e.g. reading from a text you enjoy), Slowdown Saturday (e.g. taking a nap), Sunday Funday (e.g. kayaking with a friend), etc.
- Create Connections: Many of us have had limited in-person contact with others, which has led to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Loneliness has been shown to be as dangerous to our health as smoking or obesity! Remember the benefits from meaningful connections: feeling included, smiling and laughing, reminiscing on past memories, making plans, gaining support, validation or empathy, and improving your mood. Commit to making one social date (e.g. walk, phone call) with a friend or family member within the next week. If you are unable to meet in person, you can even try a phone app, such as Marco Polo (video messages), Pop.in (games on group video) or Words with Friends (scrabble).
Overall, taking care of your physical appearance, staying active, creating a routine, and connecting with others can help improve your mental health. By following these suggestions, motivation and productivity can increase while feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation may start to decrease. Having more consistency and stability in your day to day activities will improve your mood and help you to start feeling like yourself again. If you find you continue to have trouble coping and are ready for some additional support, contact us today. Counseling is a proven and effective way to helping you create a life you feel proud of.