These past few months have been tough on all of us. On top of a global pandemic that seems to be getting worse with each passing day, there’s always something dispiriting on the news. Don’t forget to throw in our other personal woes, like student loans, getting pay cuts at work, relationships getting tense, or worse, cut off. Mental health has taken a big hit in the middle of all this.
The weird part is, it feels like the world expects us to go on like normal. Schools are opening up and people are still working their 9-5. It’s like that one meme, where a dog sits sipping coffee while the whole room is on fire and he says, “It’s fine.” That’s how life has been feeling these past few months for a lot of people, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you said you felt the same way. It takes a toll on anyone to have to pretend like things aren’t going right, but that’s what’s expected of us. Rent still has to be paid, grades still have to be high, and work still has to be done, even if the world is falling apart.
According to the Washington Post, mental health issues have skyrocketed since people were made to go into quarantine. Experts say “a historic wave of mental-health problems is approaching” in the US. I can’t say I’m surprised. Too much uncertainty and worry can make even the most emotionally stable people feel helpless and anxious. The least we can do for ourselves is to care for our mental health. We need to find ways to calm down and breathe, and not let fear and distress take over our lives and relationships. We owe it to ourselves to make sure we don’t go insane in a world that already is.
To take care of your mental health, it’s essential to reflect on what emotion you’re feeling. Pause for a while and reflect on how this world has affected your everyday disposition. Are you scared? More irritable than usual? Or are you just downright exhausted?
When you pinpoint what it is that you feel, it’s easier to look for ways to take care of your mental health. Here are some emotions that you might have felt these past few months, and some tips on showing your mind a little tender love and care:
It’s okay to be angry. You have every reason to be. It’s difficult seeing people in situations where their livelihood (and their lives) are at stake. If you and your loved ones are in a tough position yourselves, you might notice that you’ve become more irritable. But you need to remember that you dwelling on the anger can be bad for you too. When not appropriately expressed, anger can turn into anxiety.
That said, it’s important to find relaxation techniques that can keep your head cool and grounded. If you’re feeling hotheaded and like your pulse is racing, try some guided meditation. Apps like Headspace and Sattva can help you calm down and relax with 5-minute breathing exercises. If you want to commit to being less uptight and angry in the long-term, you can even consider doing yoga, which works wonders for relaxing the mind getting rid of negative energy.
People’s lives are on the line every day, and we’ve all had to sacrifice a little bit of ourselves these past months—friendships, education, even career opportunities. It’s perfectly okay to grieve over those losses.
An important thing to do to address this sinking feeling of sadness and grief is to find an emotional release. Cry about it if you have to. Write your feelings down. Find a friend you trust and call them up, just to talk about how your fears and doubts. You don’t have to be articulate or say the right thing; you just have to let it out. Catharsis is good, and it clears your head. If you bottle up all that sadness, you’ll be carrying that weight on your shoulders for too long. Sometimes expressing that sadness somehow is the best thing you can do to lighten the load.
For some of us, it’s the loss of control that is most unsettling when things aren’t okay. When nothing goes the way you expect, and there’s nothing you can do to fix it, it’s normal to feel helpless. But when it happens for months, crippling anxiety can start taking over your mind.
If this sounds like you, one healthy coping mechanism that can help is to take on a new hobby. Channel your energy of itching to do more into learning something new. It can be as simple as writing, photography, or playing the guitar. If you don’t have time to do that because you’re still working a 9-5, then actively go on sanity breaks and walks now and then. But at the end of the day, it’s good to remind yourself that you can only control so much. Do what you can to care for yourself, and don’t pressure yourself to solve all the world’s problems.
Bonus tip: get off social media
If you’ve been around for a while, you know I talk about this a lot. And that’s because it works.
One of the greatest things you can possibly do for your mental health is to take a break from social media. While it’s good to stay up to date with everything in the news or at work, it won’t hurt to shut your phone off for a couple of hours. Disconnecting from the black hole that is social media and connecting with people face-to-face doesn’t just strengthen your relationship with them; it gives you a break from troubling news and online hate and anxiety. Plus, you’ll feel so much better because you waste less time scrolling through social media — just that itself can boost productivity.
You’re never alone. We’re all going through the motions, in one way or another. There’s no denying that it’s scary out there, but it’s important to stay resilient, especially when it comes to mental health. Take the time to reflect on how you feel and what you can do to feel better, and remember not to let life’s setbacks keep you from minding your mind.
We’re all responsible for keeping our mental health in check. I urge you to take a step back; try to assess your current mental health situation and what you can do to cope. Here are a couple of journal prompts for some healthy introspection, in your own time:
- Are anger, grief, and anxiety creeping up on me in an unhealthy frequency? What fears, problems, and stories in today’s society make me feel this way?
- How are these negative emotions affecting my everyday life?
- What coping strategies and habits can I commit to so I can address these emotions and help calm my mind down?