With a plume of negativity hanging over the entire world right now, what is it that we can do to maintain good mental health? It’s got to be mind over matter, right?
The present times of COVID-19 and its associated quarantine have managed to mess with pretty much every aspect of our lives, like the time we spent with family, working or playing; our mood and tolerance level; even the fact that we spend our entire day staring at the same four walls of our room that we usually wouldn’t have tolerated doing a minute longer has become habitual now.
And for plenty of people, the quarantine has also completely made a mess of their sleep cycle, which should have been the most predictable and peaceful eight hours of the day. Unless, that is, you belong to the pragmatic bunch of individuals who have had some of the best and most restful sleep. If the pandemic itself has been an unalloyed bad, its impact on sleep has been far more ambiguous. Inculcating physical exercises in our daily routine will help us to resume proper sleep cycles. This also plays an important role in maintaining our mental well-being, since a well-rested mind is the key for happiness.
All of us can concur with the reality that the current advice on self-isolation and social distancing has had a negative impact on our own wellbeing. Indeed, all the ‘usual’ things we would do to help manage their mental health are out of bounds; walk through the park, meeting friends or going to the cinema. Keeping in touch with our acquaintances and having regular remote conversations has proven to uplift our moods and reduce our stress levels. We need to maintain our usual routines, as far as possible, in order to overcome the obstacles.
The loss of human touch and expression has impacted our lives so much that we can clearly observe the changes in personality of everyone around us. Staying up until 2 a.m. and pondering upon the changes in our lifestyle and capabilities has become a part of our daily routine. Then again, we need to accept that it is okay not to be okay all the time. Sometimes we just have to cry and be sad. We need to break down and learn how to pick up and put ourselves back together. Sometimes the only way to be happy is to first give in and accept that you aren’t okay.
Accepting ourselves for the way we are is one of the most difficult and courageous decisions we go through. But only upon doing so can we work on improving ourselves. And those who have been through rough times with mental illnesses will tell us that, once we have broken down the myths of mental health in our minds, planting the seed for changing the attitude towards reaching out and asking for help or just being vulnerable is important. The society we live in always tells us to be strong and face the difficulties in life on our own; but that does not always have to be true.
Mental illness and depression are diagnosable conditions that are classified as a mood disorder and can bring about long-lasting symptoms such as overwhelming sadness, low energy, loss of appetite, and a lack of interest in things that used to bring pleasure. There are effective treatments for mental health through options like therapy, medication, diet, and exercise. All of these require opening up to someone, it can be a therapist, an online platform for mental health, family or a friend. Having these conversations takes energy, which we don’t always feel like it, but we’ll always feel better afterwards.
The simplest way of dealing with the difficulties of mental health and anxiety is to score ourselves on the tasks that we do, even the meagre ones, even the things that count as nothing. You woke up today (score: 1), you cleaned your room (score: 2), and so on. The reason behind this is we need to be proud of ourselves for getting through it; proud of coming all this way in our lives and being alive at this very moment. Even in the most difficult times, we need to learn to be kind to ourselves. If you have heard of the butterfly effect, you’ll know that even the smallest change in a state can result in large differences in a later state. And that goes for mental health as well; looking after ourselves now can lead to a huge difference tomorrow.
While going through each day, keep in mind the one guideline for living through a global emergency, that is to avoid spending every moment in “crisis mode.” A range of different activities can help people stay grounded in difficult times. Following a normal routine as much as possible, limiting the time spent engaging with news and social media, being physically active, getting enough sleep, maintaining social relationships. These practices will not change anyone’s circumstances, but they can help people realize that they still have a connection to their prior way of life. Focusing on this will help people take a step towards making themselves feel better.
Keep in mind that you are only human. Being fragile to happiness as well as sadness; to be just as real to life’s ups and downs is fundamental to being a human. Always remember to embrace your growth and never forget to look after your mental as well as your physical health, even in the most challenging times.