If you’re like many, you may be experiencing déjà vu with the beginning of 2021. It’s a new year, but we’re still dealing with the effects of the pandemic. Fears of getting sick, job loss, and political uncertainty haven’t gone away. Although things are looking similar to the year we left behind, we’re in a different place emotionally. The constant changing of the pandemic has forced us to try new things, change our mindset, and become more flexible. Along with constant change, new ways of coping have emerged. We’ve learned things about ourselves that usually take years in a relatively short time. We’ve learned that anxiety is part of change and have become more aware of the importance of connecting with others for our survival and mental health.
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, these mental health hacks can help you be more gentle with yourself and ease your worried mind.
1. Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t. Uncertainty about the virus, government, and work situations cause stress. Narrow your thoughts to focus on and fix what is in your control. Your diet, exercise, what you read or watch, and who you spend time with are all within your control.
2. Be flexible and willing to readjust your expectations. Before the pandemic, many people increased their stress by setting their expectations and goals high and prioritizing work. The pandemic changed our work and family lives. It gave us permission to stay in and read books, try new hobbies, or spend more time with the family. For most of us, that was a big adjustment in learning who we are without all the distractions. It may have been painful or brought up old issues we hadn’t resolved, but it was also an opportunity to be more realistic about our lives and our relationships.
3. We’ve learned the importance of connecting and found better ways to connect. We’ve always known how important our family and friends were to our mental health; however, because it was easy to meet up, we took it for granted. The pandemic forced us to socially distance and that meant we had to get creative to maintain emotional closeness. Zoom, FaceTime, and virtual celebrations have sustained us. We don’t take those we love for granted anymore.
4. We took "shoulds" out of our self-talk. One of the most harmful things you can do is criticize or shame yourself with self-talk. This happens when we compare ourselves to others and beat ourselves up for all we’re not doing. The pandemic opened our eyes to the present. One of the most helpful mental health hacks has been more gentle self-talk. It’s okay not to feel okay, and you aren’t the only one struggling.
5. More mental health services have gone online, making it more available to all. Another mental health perk is there are numerous resources and mental health services available to you while staying home. During the pandemic, therapists have started working from home making them more available to you at a lower cost. There is no shame in talking to someone and you can get mental health help that will stay with you long after the pandemic is over.
6. Create moments and adventures you look forward to in the future. Most of us know how precious shared moments with loved ones are, but prior to the pandemic, we put many of the most important things on hold while we stayed distracted with our lives. This has changed. With limited time to spend together, we seek it more, plan it more, and take advantage of every opportunity possible to create time together.
It’s normal to feel fatigued and tired of living with COVID-19 but take time to reflect and see how far you’ve come since the pandemic first began. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve grown and survived. It’s a good idea to show yourself some compassion and be grateful for what you’ve learned.