6 Tips to Stay Mentally Healthy During the Pandemic

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Jenna Kraft, MA, LCSW

   Director, JPA New Light

These past 13 months have been difficult. There is not one person unaffected in some way by the pandemic. Many of us have faced stressful, overwhelming and confusing challenges in the last year. Maintaining an openness to actively manage stress in healthy ways will continue to help you - and the people you care about - maintain a sense of calm, joy and connection.

 

 

Here are some tips for staying healthy as we continue to manage our lives during the pandemic:

 

1. Plan Consistent ‘You’ Time

No matter how hard we try, things inevitably fall through the cracks from time to time. Despite valiant efforts to get everything right; getting the kids off to school on time, leading a successful meeting, keeping everyone’s favorite groceries stocked or even just getting the gas tank filled - we find ourselves facing countless obstacles and moments of simply running out of time and resources. Stress makes everything harder, and an expectation of perfection isn’t realistic, especially during a pandemic. People all over the world are doing their best to make the best of a tough situation. Practice giving to yourself and filling your proverbial gas tank - taking a bath, going for a walk, treating yourself. Creating these pockets of time will ultimately give you the boost you need to continue giving.
 

2. Practice Mindfulness                                                                                                                 
It’s hard to be present or in the moment when we are constantly bombarded by needs from others. However, there are meaningful practices we can engage in that will help calm our nervous system and allow us to be more present. Whatever we call it - meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, or even just taking a quick moment with our eyes closed - these practices can help reduce stress and quiet distressing, ruminating thoughts. Sustained practice of deep breathing - even for minutes at a time - lowers blood pressure and reminds our parasympathetic nervous system that we are safe - allowing us to remain present for important moments in our day.

 

3. Go Outside                                                                                                                    
Spending time outside of our homes and offices in varied and stimulating locations keeps things interesting and promotes both physical and mental health. Specifically, time outside in nature and fresh air is calming and relaxing to our bodies. Remembering to take daily time outside - going for walks, riding a bike, kayaking, walking the dog - anything that gets the blood pumping - helps manage stress. Activity also releases endorphins and hormones that boost our mood and promotes healthy habits. And remember, you can always start small - consistently moving and staying active over time is the most important part.

4. Take Breaks from Media                                                                                                       
When we are cooped up inside, screens often seem like an easy go-to for entertainment. However, when we are constantly exposed to news sources that are sharing distressing content it can be easy to begin to see the world through one lens and to become overwhelmed. Being informed is important, and so is moderation. Pick up a book, call a friend or try a virtual yoga class - activiti
es to remind you of the good things in your life to balance things out. Follow trusted news sources and gather information from national and local health and government authorities.

5. Remember That You’re Not Alone                                                                                            
At a time when we all need to keep our physical distance, it’s important to remember that we can - and should - stay emotionally connected. Actively planning in this time is key: setup a virtual happy hour with friends, schedule a virtual game night, get together on a rooftop, or FaceTime friends or relatives who may currently live alone. And remember - we are all in this together, which means none of us are truly alone.

6. Ask for Help                                                                                                                          
Nobody can do it all on their own. It’s ok to ask for the help that you need from the people who care about you and who you trust. Your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and community are all facing similar challenges in these trying times, and we have a shared responsibility to help each other more now than ever.

—-

New Light is an outpatient therapy clinic located at 1707 N. Halsted St. in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL. New Light is a part of the non-profit organization Juvenile Protective Association (JPA).

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health concerns, please know there is support available. Please reach out to us at newlight@jpachicago.org or at 312-698-6933 with any questions or to schedule an appointment.

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