Practices to Keep Your Mental Health Intact

August 18, 2020

Posted by Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

by Meghan Barlow, Ph.D.

There’s no doubt that the circumstances around COVID-19 have increased our risk of mental health problems. Luckily, we have strategies to protect our mental health. Engaging in the following practices are likely to help you meet the challenges of today and come through with your mental health intact.

Sleep

We are all able to function much better when we are well rested. Do what you can to get a good night’s sleep. If worry keeps you up at night, avoid scrolling through social media or exposing yourself to upsetting news stories. Follow good sleep hygiene guidelines to improve your chances of getting restful sleep.

Develop Gratitude

Notice and attend to what you’re grateful for. Express that gratitude intentionally. You might feel grateful for your family’s health or your continued employment, but you might not take the time to acknowledge that gratitude. Say it out loud. Write it in a journal. Acknowledge your gratitude for less obvious moments as well. Be grateful for a good laugh, a moment of peace, or the feeling of sunshine. Explore different ways to practice gratitude and encourage your family to practice gratitude as well.

Do For Others

Acts of kindness benefit the giver and the receiver. It is well documented that doing for others has a positive impact on the doer’s wellbeing. You can perform random acts of kindness for strangers or help those you live, work and interact with on a regular basis. Find ways that you and your children can do for others. 

Set Healthy Boundaries

Be intentional about your exposure to media and social media. Recognize that when you spend too much time venting or complaining, it makes you feel worse and not better. Go ahead and allow yourself time to grieve, but set a limit. After a certain point, shift your focus and walk away. Likewise, if you notice your blood boiling around certain people or when exposed to others’ behavior, figure out a way to turn your attention towards something that calms you.

Be Stoic

I don’t mean be stoic in the sense that you shouldn’t express your feelings. I’m referring to the principles, practices, and philosophies of ancient stoicism. Stoics engage in practicing misfortune. That is, they imagine what could go wrong and they plan for it. They acknowledge that challenges are possible and sometimes likely and they think through how they would be able to survive that misfortune. As we look towards an uncertain future, this seems like it could be a useful tool. Additionally, stoics look to turn obstacles into opportunities. Again, they acknowledge the misfortune and the obstacles; there’s no “sugar coating.” The focus, though, is on how they can use the problematic situation for their benefit. Find ways to make the unwanted circumstances of COVID-19 help you become a better individual, better family member, and better citizen.

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