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Mental Health During Trying Times

While video calling my little cousin earlier this week about her upcoming quarantine birthday, I was truly astonished by how she explained her understanding of our current circumstances. At just nine-years-old, she is very aware of how seriously adults are taking this virus and serious about the safety rules herself. However, she has no point of reference in her own view of the world for why. Explaining a virus to her is already a difficult task, let alone pandemic. To her, life suddenly turned upside down and she just had to accept it without a comprehensible explanation . I could sense her frustration through her sad smile, and speaking to her really put things in perspective for me.

Honestly, COVID-19 puts me in a serious funk sometimes, too. Waking up everyday knowing that I will likely spend the entirety of it at home, staying up until the wee hours of the morning and almost waking up at noon (because quarantine makes teenagers nocturnal), and seeing life blur together into a solemn and idle existence is definitely not what I expected my last summer before college to look like. I can hardly imagine what it feels like for the parents who have to work from home full-time while also taking care of and teaching their children.

Simply put, this pandemic has redefined normal for all of us. Everyone has their own take on what exactly is happening while trying their best to cope with it. However, something we  can all benefit from is honoring our circumstances and making the most of this newfound normalcy. This article addresses mental health and can be applicable to anyone. Whether you choose to be out and about safely this year or strictly stay indoors, using these simple principles can help point you to the present. 

3 Mental Health Tips for Trying Times

1. Practice Gratitude

As the old saying goes, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” We have all lost a lot this year, and I know that we will all be so much more grateful about those things when we will get back to them. However, having an attitude of gratitude is always possible. It is not worth losing things to begin to appreciate them. For instance, today I am grateful that I could go to the dentist, play guitar, and watch a movie with my sister. These three instances were very simple, but I was very appreciative of them. If the things we are happy about are so easily dismissed and overlooked, then our focus turns to the things we are not-so-happy about. While these feelings are definitely valid, thinking of them  often only exacerbates how terribly they make you feel. It is more worth your mental space to focus on the good. According to Harvard Health, studies show that being grateful can improve health, relationships and satisfaction, three additional reasons accentuate the positives.

2. Take Breaks

There’s a lot going on right now. Many of us are looking at the COVID count on a daily basis, some go as far as checking hourly. Others are watching the news, following along during some of the most historically impactful events we will witness during our lifetimes. Some of us try to dive into work and avert the stress brought about by the outside world, and still others may try to ignore everything and watch Netflix. The common denominator? We all spend a massive amount of time in front of screens now. This was already an issue to some degree before, but more so since the stay-at-home guidelines. The Minnesota Department of Health states that increased screen time can have a variety of adverse effects. More importantly though, since the start of the pandemic and greater reliance on technology, there has been a vast increase in the consumption of information. This consumption comes in all forms: the aforementioned topics, as well as social media, mindless entertainment, and other vapid consumption. While this can be what is needed for a healthy break, heavy reliance on these coping mechanisms can be damaging, according to the National Institute of Health. Further, the CDC also recommends taking a break from the news to better cope with stress. Thus, it is necessary to take breaks and re-evaluate whether the information you are consuming is serving you. If the time spent surfing the web or reading the news is more harm than help, it is probably not worth it.

3. Prioritize

Even though we are at home, our to do lists may still feel virtually endless. However, it is also important to zoom out of the day-to-day and focus on the big picture. It is vital to make time for activities and people you love, your health, and simply being outdoors. There are various studies that demonstrate the benefits of shifting your priorities to benefit you in the long term. For instance, having quality relationships are known to increase life span, and spending time in nature has attention-restorative and anxiety-reducing properties. What might seem unproductive now could become a memory you cherish for decades. 

Overall, upon reading more about mental health, I realized how much of a priority it should be. Essentially, your mind is your home. It is where you have lived, do live, and will continue to live, forever. I am not saying that to freak you out or spark a philosophical debate. All I ask is that you take care of yourself. Your mind is your home, and you ought to make it a nice place to be.

Additional Mental Health Reading:

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