It’s officially been a year since we have all been living in a world impacted by COVID-19. Pandemic life has demanded so many of us to change our routines and essentially the way our day-to-day life unfolds in some big and small ways. The usual ways we relied on to provide us with a sense of comfort, support, connection, community, leisure, entertainment, and basically to cope with stress are either no longer available to us or perhaps we aren’t willing to take unnecessary health risks for ourselves and loved ones. When this all started we had no idea this would last this long. We were okay with making the changes we needed to thinking it was a short-term adjustment. We weren’t prepared for the marathon of a year and then some of having to live amidst a pandemic. The toll the pandemic has taken on our overall mental health is pretty darn significant and we need to start normalizing whatever trauma responses we are experiencing. Denying how hard life has been over the past year is doing nobody any good. For the past year, many of us have been operating in survival mode and leaning on less than ideal ways to cope and deal and just get by week to week. Many of the coping mechanisms we might have been using are probably only sustainable for a limited amount of time and could use an upgrade. That short period of time is now over. Building new routines and structures in your day that are actually sustainable is where your energy will be best spent. Here are four mental health habits to help you do some spring cleaning in your mental and emotional space.
- Put down your phone. Turn off your laptop. Step away from technology. Do yourself a favor and give yourself permission to disconnect from your devices. You will not be missing out on anything. Pick a realistic time during your evening that you decide you will disconnect from technology until the following day.
- Learn and practice mindfulness skills. A mindfulness skill is simply a practice that invites you to make contact with the present moment and take a break from being wrapped up and consumed in your thoughts. It’s a way to pay attention to what’s happening in the here and now. A simple deep breathing exercise where you slow down and connect with your body and shift your focus to your breath can be helpful in interrupting negative, anxious thoughts or the sense of feeling like all you do is rush through your day from one thing to the next. Mindfulness is about not missing out on your life.
- Don’t believe everything you think. Our thoughts are powerful influencers in our daily existence. So many of our thoughts get in our way of making positive choices and moving towards our big and small goals in life. We operate under the assumption that if we have thought then it must be true and that’s simply not the case especially the self-critical, negative thoughts.
- Tend to your garden. Our mind is our garden and what we plant and water and nourish will grow. What we neglect and give little attention to tends to fade. The goal is to pay attention to and water the positive, self-affirming thoughts while weeding out the not so helpful thoughts. Fill your garden with positive affirmations and inspirational, uplifting messages. Seek out people and influencers who are doing the same. Surround yourself with positive messages.