Well it has been about four months, and we are barely starting to come out from the cover of COVID. Though some businesses are starting to reopen, and restaurants are hosting guests with limited capacity, we are a far cry from “normal.” The duration and severity of this pandemic, combined with the uncertainty of what is to come, has challenged the mental health of many individuals. Depression, anxiety, and stress have overcome many Americans, and with social distancing restrictions in place, many have struggled with finding productive ways to manage these feelings. I wanted to provide some new ideas that have worked well for me and some of my patients to increase positivity and use the extra time we have at home alone in ways that can benefit us in the present and future.
Flip Through Your Photo Albums and Yearbooks
I absolutely love pictures and the memories they preserve. Revisiting my high school yearbook was a mood-boosting plethora of pictures, memories, messages from old friends, and remembering the excitement of what the future may hold. Rereading kind and encouraging words from fellow graduates made me feel valued and reminded me of my own potential. Each picture spoke to simpler times and how there is much joy in everyday life. I encourage you to sit with your memories and cherish the life you’ve lived up to this point. My hope is that this exercise will encourage a grateful mindset. At the very least, I hope it will make you smile.
Random Acts of Kindness
Gratitude and kindness have been long recognized as an effective tool in managing depression and anxiety. I cannot think of a moment in my life where the world needed more kindness than it does right now. You can pay for someone’s coffee or pay someone a simple complement. You can do a household chore for your spouse that they would appreciate. Utilize companies like Bright Box or Greetable to send someone special a note and small gift for less than $20. If you like to bake, then bake and take it to a neighbor. Seeing someone else smile for something you did or said is the fastest way to make you smile right back.
Thank You Cards
Yes, they do exist. Writing and sending cards, not typing or emailing, is a another way to connect and let people know they are on your mind. Getting a brightly colored envelop in the mail, especially when it is not even your birthday, is enough to brighten anyone’s day. If a simple pencil and paper will not suffice and you do not feel like doning full PPE at your local Target, then look online. You can find creative cards of all different genres that will fit any occasion and style. Send your cards to kids, friends, grandparents, or really anyone. Sending a “thinking of you” note is a great way to show people you care and to remind them that we are going to get through this difficult time together.
Dance Like No One Is Watching
So, this may sound ridiculous, but I am the first to say don’t knock it till you try it. I was exhausted last week but needed to get another 1000 steps in to hit my step goal for the day. Since the thought of taking a walk outside in the 90-degree humidity sounded less then appealing, I turned on my Apple music, searched for my old boy bands, and just danced around my kitchen while making dinner. My husband may have given me a few confused looks, but in my head, I was a backup dancer for NSYNC, and I was killing it! Not only did I smash my step count, but I was laughing out loud at myself, and cooking dinner has never been so enjoyable. This may not be something you do nightly (although I would not discourage it), but if you need a quick and easy pick me up, I could not recommend it more! Close the curtains (or not!), let your hair down, JAM OUT to your favorite tunes, and feel those negative moods float away.
Last but not least, we have the tried and true, journaling. I find journaling more valuable now than ever. Personally, I have discovered that writing down your emotions truly helps you work through situations effectively, since you have to put what you are feeling into actual words. I have made this recommendation to countless clients, but few have followed through. If quarantine has given us anything, it is the gift of more time. I strongly encourage you to use this time to reflect on anything you are feeling and write it out. I feel better, calmer, and more settled after every journal entry I make. It costs nothing, keeps you mentally engaged, and will show you ways to process the negative emotions in a productive way.
I pray every day that this pandemic will come to a close quickly, but until then, we have to find ways to cope and continue on with our lives. I hope these new ideas will help invigorate you and promote positive energy and thinking in the weeks to come.
In Health & Happiness, Jessica Murgueytio