You’ve been wearing a face mask and doing your best to stay 6 feet away from others when out in public. You’re still cleaning frequently touched surfaces like kitchen countertops and doorknobs daily.
In other words, you’re taking care of your physical health. But what are you doing for your mental outlook during the coronavirus pandemic? Where are you finding joy in your life?
It’s not a frivolous question. Science tells us that our emotional health can have a big impact on how we feel physically. It’s called the mind-body connection. According to the American Heart Association, people who are happier tend to have better heart health. They manage stress better. And, being more positive may contribute to a longer lifespan.
So now that we are about nine months into the pandemic and heading into winter months, how can you build more positivity in your life? Here are a few ideas.
First and foremost, seek help when you need it. Whether it’s talking to a friend, spouse, counselor, physician, or finding support from an online group or community, it’s important to have an ally.
“We want our community to know that the Crisis Center is open and will remain open throughout the entirety of the pandemic,” Don Robinson, Northern Idaho Crisis Center manager, said. “During the early stages of the pandemic, we saw a reduction in the number of visits to the Crisis Center. This caused us some concern – we were worried that people who needed help were staying home instead. We want someone in crisis to feel safe coming to us. Please know that we are following all CDC guidelines and the Crisis Center is still a safe space to come to if you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or other concerns.”
Stay connected with friends and family. Whether it’s by telephone, social media or online video chat, regular check-ins with loved ones can spread joy in both directions. Don’t let too much time go by without connecting to someone important in your life.
Reframe your situation. Don’t think of yourself as being a prisoner in your own house once bad weather starts to hit. Instead, try looking at this as an opportunity to focus on yourself and your home. Is there a room in your house you’d like to rearrange or cozy up for the holidays? Do you have a pile of papers waiting to be organized? Try to chip away at one productive thing a day. It’ll make you feel better.
Stay as close to your normal routine as possible. For those who are still working from home or homeschooling their kids, it’s important to wake up and go to bed at around the same time each day. Eat regularly scheduled meals.
“We’re continuing to go through major shifts in lifestyle as people’s work and home lives change and adapt to the situation,” Claudia Miewald, DNP, director of Kootenai Health’s Behavioral Health Services, said. “It’s important for us to feel like we’re all in this together and maintain a routine to help us get through this with some feeling of normalcy.”
Keep your house neat and tidy. Uncertainty is just outside your front door. Keep your side of the door organized, predictable and clean. A cluttered home can lead to a cluttered mind.
Limit how much news you watch and read. Reading or listening to news about the pandemic can stress you out. Stay informed, but don’t obsess over endless media coverage. Find a positive escape in a book, favorite TV show, music, or doing activities with your family.
Focus on the small things that bring happiness each day. At the end of the day, think about all the small moments that gave you pleasure. What did you accomplish? What were you grateful for?
You might want to write your answers down in a journal so you can revisit them when you’re feeling down.
Spend some time in nature. Take a stroll through a park, take a hike, grab your snowshoes, or just walk around town. Studies have shown that spending time in nature settings can:
- Improve your attention.
- Lower your stress levels.
- Improve your mood.
Just be sure to continue practicing social distancing while you’re outdoors and wear a face mask if you’re around others.
Spread joy in your neighborhood. We’re all looking for ways to enjoy being outside, even as the days get shorter, Use this as a good excuse to go above and beyond in your holiday decorations, or get your kids to make yard signs with positive messages for passersby. Taking the time to brighten someone else’s day can help brighten your own.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of extreme stress, such as ongoing trouble sleeping, inability to carry out daily routines, or an increase in alcohol or drug use, seek help from a health care provider. If you’re struggling to find help, here are a few resources:
- Northern Idaho Crisis Center – (208) 625-4884
- Heritage Health – (208) 620-5210
- Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline (call or text) – 1-208-398-4357
- You can also visit northidahoconnections.org to search for other community resources.