For weeks, we’ve been finding ourselves getting accustomed to our new reality and sense of ‘normal’ with this global pandemic we are experiencing. While we share this commonality, it’s important to note that everyone’s emotions and situations are different. Some of us are juggling working full-time and homeschooling our kids, some of us are navigating being laid off or furloughed with an uncertainty of when the next paycheck will come, and some of us are on the front lines and putting our health at risk.
We are experiencing things we may have never experienced if it wasn’t for this virus. There is so much uncertainty and unknown that it can leave us feeling extremely uneasy and stressed. And it’s why now, more than ever, is the time to be aware of how we are feeling psychologically. Now is the time to focus on ourselves and our needs. Now is the time to take care of ourselves.
Even though so much is out of our hands and we may feel utterly helpless, there is comfort in knowing that we do have control in how we mentally take care of ourselves during this unprecedented time. I’m sharing a few things that I’ve been doing over the last few weeks to keep my mental health in check.
Give yourself some dang grace
Something we can all relate to is the fact that we are cooped up inside of our homes, forced to face our feelings and thoughts. For me, I’ve come eye to eye with my anxiety. It’s been shouting at me for weeks to do more because I technically have more time, no longer with a commute or social events to attend. I’ve felt guilt over the fact that I’ve been glued to my TV screen and been consuming an unhealthy amount of Instagram and TikTok.
But then I remind myself of something. We are facing a freaking world pandemic. A war with a virus. Something we may never see again in our lifetime. There’s nothing “normal” about this. It’s emotional and unsettling. So it’s perfectly okay to not do for once and just be. It’s okay. Don’t feel guilty if you have days or periods of time where you have no motivation to do anything. Take care of yourself and allow yourself to process what you’re going through. Whatever you feel like you should be doing will be there when you are ready.
Create – and stick to – a routine
Being home all day long, day in and day out, can easily have you falling into bad habits. It’s recommended by experts to create a routine and do your best to stick with it. Creating a sense of normalcy will help your mental state.
What’s helped me is scheduling everything in my Google calendar – from virtual workouts (which truthfully I sometimes skip because I’m just not in the mood) to work meetings to Facetime dates with family and friends. This provides me with consistency and keeps me in check.
I’ve started to form new habits to get used to being home 24/7 too. Three things I’ve done that have worked well for me:
- Changing out of my PJs in the mornings (even if that means immediately jumping into a pair of leggings) and putting on a little makeup and fixing my hair, not only to look better, but feel better
- Doing at minimum 20 push-ups and 20 squats a day (in addition to other physical activity) to get my blood pumping
- Meditating once daily (more on this below)
Meditate upon waking up or before going to sleep
Try as I might, I’ve attempted meditation for years to help combat my anxiety. It was recommended during my therapy sessions back in 2017, but I just couldn’t get into it – until Breethe. The calm nature of the woman’s voice on all the meditations with the relaxing music in the background instantly puts me at ease. Since the social distancing and shelter in place went into effect, I’ve been doing my best to meditate every day as I really do find it helps to alleviate stress and anxiety.
Get some fresh air and move your body
Another way to take care of yourself is to make it a point to go outside and walk around your neighborhood. This has been something I’ve actively been doing. Living in a small two-bedroom condo has made me want to get out and enjoy the fresh air, even on the days it’s cold and gloomy out. I like breaking up my day with a walk around lunchtime or after the workday when my energy is highest. Getting fresh air and receiving Vitamin D can help lessen anxiety and also potentially reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus. Seeing sidewalk chalk drawings and positive messages such as the one below has certainly made me smile too.
Limit how often and how much you consume the news
When things started getting really bad (i.e. around the second week of March), I was enthralled with the news. Companies were ordering their employees to work from home. Bars and restaurants were closing. Our borders were closing. We were going into shelter in place. It was all unprecedented and not like anything we ever could have expected we’d see in our lifetime. It was hard not to want to know what was going to happen next. I found myself watching the news on TV all day long while simultaneously refreshing my Twitter feed for the latest breaking news. I felt like I was in the middle of a horror movie and was paralyzed with fear and shock.
After a week of that, I realized enough was enough. I needed to focus on other areas of my life and take better care of myself because I was quickly falling into a rut. I promised myself I was going to limit my exposure to the news which I’ve followed through on ever since. I still feel informed and prepared, but I’m not spending every waking hour thinking of this virus anymore.
Allow yourself to feel all the feels
One of the things I like to watch every night after my workday is the ABC World News Tonight with David Muir. Unfortunately, every night I turn it on, it seems as though the stories continue to get more severe and devastating. The other night, they were interviewing doctors and nurses on the front lines who were talking about their patients who are dying alone because their families cannot be in the room with them. They were choking up talking about their experiences and I instantly was overcome with emotion and began to cry. I mean, how can you not?
It’s absolutely heart wrenching each time I hear stories like that but it continues to provide the perspective that I need. I’m making an effort to sift through all of these emotions and I’m documenting them in my Notes app on my phone, as well as in my journal. I want to remember this time because it will remind me years from now to never, ever take anything for granted.
Pursue a hobby that makes you happy
If you are feeling up to it emotionally and mentally, pursuing a hobby that makes you happy can get your mind off of things. I’ve been trying to make time to write, as that’s where I feel I’m personally most creative. I’ve had friends that have started painting, drawing, learning piano, doing puzzles, among other hobbies to pass the time, which I think is so great. If you don’t know where to start, think back to your childhood and what you found joy in. See if there’s anything back then that you could get back into now. Do what makes your heart and soul happy!
Take advantage of technology to connect with family and friends
We are extremely fortunate to have the technology we do today to get us through this pandemic. Can you imagine if we were stuck inside of our homes with no way to connect with people other than the ones we’re living with? It’s so important to take care of yourself by ensuring you’re having human interaction and connection every day. I am so grateful because I’ve been able to have group Facetime calls with both my family and my set of friends and also virtual game nights with my friends over Zoom (I purchased this Jackbox Party Pack – highly recommend)! I also know of friends who have had digital dance parties to celebrate birthdays. It seems like with every passing day, someone is sharing another way for us to connect with others. It’s pretty incredible if you ask me.
Ask yourself these six questions
- What am I grateful for today?
- Who am I checking on or connecting with today?
- What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
- How am I getting outside today?
- How am I moving my body today?
- What beauty am I creating, cultivating or inviting in today?
Remember friend, you are not alone in this. We will get through it. We are in this together. Take care of yourself.
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.