We are now 8-months into the Covid-19 pandemic, a global disaster that we could have never imagined happening. The world has changed dramatically, from a new social distanced norm to kids wearing masks in classrooms. Although we are adapting, it has left many of us feeling
anxious for the future – will life ever go back to normal, really?
Now more than ever we need to look after our mental health. So, if some days you feel fine and the next you don’t – know that it’s completely normal to feel uneasy. Our minds are still digesting these drastic changes. Whilst reading this article take a moment to check-in with your mental health: How are you feeling 8-months in? Some of our nervous systems may still be urging you to hyper-focus on the COVID-19. This is a survival strategy directed by your amygdala (the part of the brain associated with emotions). This response can take over and if allowed, can cause you to become obsessive. Allowing this part of your brain to be in charge is like allowing the least intelligent part of your brain to steer the ship! It will keep you feeling anxious and uncomfortable. It can keep you awake at night, interrupt your diet, increase drug and/or alcohol use and create other destructive coping strategies. And to top it off, with all this work on survival, you will be distracted from your relationships which is one of the places where humans find comfort and calm.
Here are 6 steps on how to keep your anxiety levels at bay 8-months into the Covid-19 pandemic, along with the recent new restrictions:
- Identify what you can control. Focusing solely on what is out of our control fosters anxiety. Pull your attention back to the things in your life that you can control, in the here and now. This can include focusing on your weekly routine, or tomorrow’s to-do list. Resist thinking too far ahead. Your brain and anxiety respond well to structure and routine, so create some consistency and build your confidence.
- Seek support and cultivate your social community. We are social beings, so being socially disconnected naturally creates an increase in anxiety. Acknowledge the need to feel connected and seen in the context of safe relationships. A sense that you are part of a community builds greater resiliency. Be proactive in reaching out to schedule social connection and build it into your weekly schedule, be it a phone-call, a socially-distanced cup of coffee or supporting your local restaurant getting a meal – interact with people and sustain your relationships.
- Be touched by what you are feeling. Take the time to notice your feelings instead of brushing over them as if they were not there. Feeling those emotions, whatever they may be, is essential to overall health. What is accessible is not about getting rid of the feelings, but rather getting to know them intimately. Give them space and be inquisitive. Shutting out our emotional challenges causes increased distress and anxiety. Engage with those feelings and be in relationship with how you are doing, both emotionally and physically. This builds your inner knowing and in turn your overall emotional strength and well-being. And check in regularly.
- Get in your physical activity! Without question, the relationship between mood, anxiety and fitness is strong. Plan different ways you can stay active: 2 walks a day, run, stationary bike, weights, online fitness, yoga…. or whatever works for you to maintain a level of activity.
- Express Gratitude. Being grateful is one of the quickest and most powerful ways to feel calm and get present. At the dinner table each night have each family member give one example of something they are grateful for that day, no matter how small. This routine takes only a few moments yet creates connection. It helps the family conversation organize around certainty and each person’s experience. It creates reassurance which is calming and it’s often just fun to share.
6. Self-care. During hard times stress levels increase and we often forget to look after ourselves. Acknowledge that you and your needs matter amid pandemic related demands. Recognize that you have the power to decide how to look after yourself. Find something you enjoy, something that makes you feel good. Make the time to schedule this weekly. If you need a weekly self-care reminder or the tools to develop a self-care routine, follow us on social media for regular self-care check-ins and wellness tools. It’s easy to do and we welcome you.
Try incorporating these 6 steps into your life. Be intentional about your mental health. Recognize what you need during these difficult times and design your life to include what you need to feel your best.
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Be well and be safe.