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This is Your Pandemic Mental Health Check-In: 4 Daily Practices to Add to Your Routine

Especially during trying times, putting yourself first is healthy and necessary.

It’s no secret: the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world and altered many aspects of life. Understandably, these changes can often feel debilitating and socially nullifying. Learning how to maintain mental health during a pandemic can feel mentally exhausting, especially when it uproots routines and social norms. We’re here to suggest four daily practices with proven scientific benefits for mental health, hoping you and yours can find some comfort during these unprecedented times.

1. Practice Self-Care

Self-care is the practice of taking a deliberate role in preserving and protecting your well-being. Self-care is about mindfulness, nutrition, physical activity, and knowing your limits. 

Practicing self-care can simply come in the form of getting into the habit of saying no to commitments you may not feel up for. Although this can be challenging, knowing yourself and setting purposeful boundaries is essential to maintain your health. 

Research shows the cultural expectation to push yourself to the point of burnout causes health and performance issues.1 Self-induced stress, stemming from unrealistic expectations, can lead people to ignore proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise. Let's be real; we've all been there! Taking the time at the beginning or end of your day to practice necessary self-care can significantly influence your stress levels.

A few examples of self-care practices include:

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Healthy eating
  • Socializing (while socially distanced in person or safely over the phone!)
  • Adequate sleep

2. Stretch Your Legs in the Fresh Air

Exercise encourages cognitive function and reduces depression and anxiety; several studies also suggest that it boosts self-esteem and combats social withdrawal.2 A win-win situation if you ask us! 

The beauty of an active lifestyle is you don't need much to gain significant health benefits like reduced blood pressure and improved mental health. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity activity, like brisk walking, only three days per week is assumed to be enough to experience advantages. Keep in mind your walk doesn’t not need to be consecutive minutes; three ten-minute walks throughout the day are equally effective.

Whenever you get the chance to be outside for a workout, take advantage of the moment. The growing field of ecotherapy studies how the environment reduces or alleviates mood disorders, like anxiety, stress, and depression, explaining that more time outdoors equates to elevated mood and sense of self. 3

However, if you aren't much of a walker, there are many fun and uplifting workout regimes you can participate in. 

3. Practice Gratitude

There is definitely something to be said about practicing gratitude in your day-to-day life. Research suggests that people who practice gratitude regularly experience less stress, improved health, stronger relationships and tend to live more joyful lives.4

Gratitude can be described as showing appreciation or thankfulness to the people, situations, and experiences of your life. It is the practice of highlighting the joy in your life and finding where that joy comes from. While you might not practice gratitude now, it’s a practice you can cultivate.

4. Reach Out and Connect with Someone

Most researchers agree staying socially connected during the current pandemic is vital to maintaining mental health.5 Unfortunately, many people aren’t sure how to safely interact with friends and family. If you want to connect with loved ones during this challenging time, consider one of several options:

  • Video chat applications
  • Social media groups
  • Virtual activities (Yoga or movement classes)
  • Phone calls
  • Socially distanced visits outside (Sorry! No hugs yet.)

It's never too late to improve your well-being. Especially during trying times, putting yourself first is healthy and necessary. Be easy on yourself and take steps towards better mental health day by day. You've got this.