As we slowly and cautiously emerge from two-plus years of a chaotic pandemic, it’s clear that the prolonged uncertainty and stress it's caused has had an impact on our mental well-being and the mental well-being of those around us. And that impact hasn’t shown itself to be kind.
While the fortitude of the human spirit is strong, a look around reveals that an increasing number of people are suffering psychologically.
Given the inextricable connection between our mental and physical states, many people are also suffering physically. If we want to be fit and healthy, addressing our mental state is an important part of the equation. Here we’ll look a 5 items to consider in our mental health journey to help keep us on, or reestablish, a path of wellness.
1. Acknowledge What Has and Still Is Happening
The past two years have been really difficult, for you, for your family, for your neighbors–for everyone, everywhere. That is taking its toll on people’s mental wellness and it will continue to be something we deal with personally and on a larger scale for a while to come now. It’s important to acknowledge that and deal accordingly.
Have you been more impatient? Quick tempered? Depressed? Overwhelmed? Know that these are very normal reactions to these very abnormal circumstances. Give yourself, as well as others, some grace. Recognize that there's a really good reason to be feeling mental unrest.
Resetting your expectations to allow that this is having an impact on you is a good starting point. By identifying the problem, you'll have a better time finding the solution, or at least understanding why you feel the way you do.
2. To Exercise or Not to Exercise: That Actually Is a Good Question
Moving your body is a well-known way to boost your mood. It’s not a substitution for therapy, ever, but it often helps improve your mental state. This uplift has both immediate and longer-term benefits, as well. So exercise is an important part of rebuilding or maintaining a healthy mental state, most of the time.
Getting in a workout, however, also requires emotional energy. Motivation and moving takes effort. And if you’re completely spent, sometimes rest is the better answer. We need rest to rebuild, too. This is a great moment to learn to really listen to your body, get in touch with your mental state and respond with what’s going to serve you best.
3. Refocus on Improving Mental Wellness
Chances are high that your mental wellness could use some tending to, given the past 24 months. There are many ways to directly improve your psychological state and now may be a great time to give that some focus. Spending some time in meditation or even just finding some quiet time to be with your own thoughts and take some deep breaths can be really helpful.
It doesn’t need to be much: even 2 minutes can make a difference. Small, consistent efforts will have a cumulative impact over time. Other actions to consider are to put your phone down for extended periods of time during the day, go for a walk outside, do a couple sun salutations or other yoga practices–anything that can help quiet your mind and move toward a sense of calm.
4. Laughter Is Always Good Medicine
One reliable, fun, and healthy shortcut to boosting your mood is finding some way to laugh, or even just smile. Arrange a fun night out with friends or family; watch some standup comedy; see a funny movie or TV show; get silly with your kids or grandkids. Even, or especially, in times of high stress and difficulty, finding your sense of humor and embracing some deep belly laughs is a wonderful catharsis.
5. No More Excuses
While much of what’s been presented here leans in the “being gentle and kind with yourself” direction, sometimes what you need is some tough love. Maybe you have given yourself a break, a lot of breaks, because you’ve very rightly recognized that it hasn’t been time to push yourself.
Absolutely a healthy choice, for a while.
But at some point, it’s time to find a good challenge, to do something difficult or scary, to get out of your comfort zone–a comfort zone that’s maybe gotten a little too comfortable.
Our minds thrive on being engaged. Moving toward mental wellness may best be served by getting back in the game and giving yourself a new and exciting goal to go after.
Take a Moment, Right Now
Find a few minutes to check in with yourself. How are you? Like, really, how is your mental state? Where are you thriving and where could you use some help? Take inventory and consider a plan to move forward from where you are today.
Where our minds go, our bodies follow. A path to wellness always starts from the top.