by Jenna Kutcher
YUP. I’ve got to admit, this is a weird, unsettling, slow period for all of us. I saw this post last week from the @therapyforwomen Instagram account and it said this and maybe you can relate:
Things We May Be Feeling Right Now: gratitude for what we have, guilt that others do not, relief over cancelled events, grief over cancelled events, optimistic that this will create some good in the world, terrified about the future, angry at people who are not taking this seriously, frustrated at people who are panicking and hoarding, scared for our loved ones, heartbroken over the news, gratitude for technology and social media, exhausted, restless, powerless, scared, and a bunch of other conflicting, real emotions that I think are bombarding each of us in different ways right now.
Seeing such a list was a breath of fresh air for me because I don’t know about you, but I’ve been experiencing a thousand emotions every day and knowing what to lean into and what to listen to has been a difficult dance to master in this uncertain chunk of time. One thing I think we’ve all had to face, though, is feelings of loneliness and isolation. Even if you’re social distancing with family, this chapter is brand new for all of us and we’re not able to do our normal routines and see the same people we get to be around in a regular week. That on top of the fear and unknown of the Coronavirus is a heavy load to carry, no matter your situation.
5 Ways to Care for Your Mental Health While Social Distancing
So let me just remind you that it’s okay if you don’t feel optimistic or happy all the time right now. It’s normal and okay to feel lonely. You are not wrong for having slumps or off moods, BUT … I do want to equip you with some ways to care for yourself, body, mind, and heart during this funkiness. It’s not about pushing away these uncomfortable feelings but riding the wave with and through them. And so let me share with you the 5 things I’ve been practicing in order to care for my mental health right now.
01. Start journaling.
Or if you’re not a journal-er, try bullet journaling — aka, writing your experiences and thoughts down in a shorthand, bullet point format. Just try to put pen to paper in order to sort through thoughts, ideas, slumps, feelings, discomfort, and inspiration that may pop up in this weird time. I can’t tell you how healing and cathartic this can be and I can promise you you’ll feel lighter and a bit relieved after giving it a shot.
For my fellow achievers out there, let me also quickly remind you: You don’t need to feel like you’re a good (or even decent) writer. There doesn’t need to be a story arc or a beginning, middle, and end. You don’t have to have all the answers or be perfectly eloquent. This is a space for you to lay out what’s really on your heart, no judgment or self-criticism allowed. If you’re not sure where to start, I’ll leave a few journal prompts below.
- I am feeling [emotion/s] because [the current situation you’re in]. I am processing them by [list activities that make you feel in tune with yourself].
- My deepest desires are [list the hopes on your heart] and I am optimistic today because [list the good things you know to be true, i.e. “The sun will continue shining everyday” or “I allowed myself to rest when I needed it”].
- Social distancing has made me realize [an emotion/experience that you’ve become aware of] and I am learning [some lesson/s] from this.
02. Make a loved-one list.
While we can’t physically be with all the people we love right now, I’ve noticed within myself how much more intentional I have been lately about checking in with family members and friends. Make a list of people you love to reach out to, even if it’s just texting one a day during social distancing in order to have more human contact.
Challenge yourself to stay connected now more than ever because it’s easy to pop onto social media or consume podcasts or TV shows to “feel” less alone, but the truth is that connecting human to human is such a gift to the soul and there’s no replacement for it. If you’re feeling stressed out, remember that there are so many ways to connect with your people from afar: text messages, phone calls, FaceTime calls, Zoom group calls, email, and handwritten notes are all incredible ways to stay in touch right now.
03. Start a new hobby.
While there are certainly people using this time to launch a new business idea or write a book or do something else that might seem a bit ambitious to me and you when the world is seemingly in shambles, you don’t need to achieve your greatest work ever in order to try new things during this time. Playing just for the sake of playing is such a special act that I honestly believe most adults have lost touch with even though it can bring about so much peace.
Paint a picture, cook or bake some fun new recipes, take up yoga with online classes, learn a new language, make jewelry, write poetry, do SOMETHING that you wouldn’t normally allow yourself the time or brain space to do. There’s something beautiful about trying new activities just because they sound like they’d bring more joy into your world. We could all use a bit more of that, couldn’t we?
04. Create a goal for yourself.
Now this could be personal or professional or both. Like I said, if you’re feeling all the feels right now, then taking on a massive, life-changing goal maybe isn’t the best idea in this current season and that is totally fine. Try starting with something that will challenge you but also add levity and brightness into your life. Read a book a week, go on a 30 minute walk every day, take 10 deep breaths before getting out of bed in the morning, write a gratitude list each night.
If you find yourself wanting more and feeling inspired to take on something that’s been on your heart for a while, then friend, now is actually such a perfect time to go for it. Start building that website, create your business plan for the podcast you’ve been dreaming about, create the Etsy shop. Just because so much is on hold in the world doesn’t mean you need to stop chasing what your soul yearns for. Go for it now, when you have the time and space to do it!
05. Take care of your physical health.
I have found that when I’m stressed out and anxiety-ridden, I’m often not taking very good care of my physical health. My sleep suffers, I don’t move my body as much as I want to, I don’t choose fueling foods. When my mind is frazzled I immediately want comfort: comfort food, my couch, old comforting habits this maaay not be the healthiest. But I’ve been recognizing more and more that when we feel a burden on our mental health, we can often turn it on its head by prioritizing our physical health and seeing how that causes a chain reaction within our mindset.
Order healthy groceries. Cook nourishing recipes with real ingredients, fresh produce, whole grains, and protein. Drink more water. Get 8 hours of sleep. Stretch, breathe deep, and give yourself little pampering moments with a warm bath, face mask, or at-home manicure. Move your body in ways that feel good to YOU — this can be easy to forget when we’re stuck inside all day, but walks in low-traffic areas and indoor workouts are life-savers right now.
What ways are you able to use this time to take care of you and prioritize your health from the inside out? I want to encourage you to listen to and follow those things because now more than ever, it’s become apparent just how important our whole-body health is. While we may be holed up in our homes, I hope you know you are not alone in spirit and you are more than worthy of prioritizing ways to care for your mental health as we all navigate this time. And remember like all things, that this too shall pass. I’m cheering for you all the way from my couch until then.