It’s been said many times over the past six months that “2020 is cancelled!” You only have to turn on the news for three minutes to see why. With all the discouraging headlines sweeping the globe, it’s easy to fall into an unhealthy state of mind and allow the rest of the year to pass you by.
Follow these seven easy steps to help you maintain a well-balanced lifestyle while keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.
FEED YOUR MIND
What a person eats has long been known to be associated with their mental health. Certain diets, like the Mediterranean diet, have been studied for their effects on the mind. One study found that people with a more Mediterranean-based diet had a 98.6% lower annual rate of developing symptoms of depression. As far as numbers go, this is quite incredible and worth taking seriously!
Paying attention to what you eat and how it affects you mentally has never been more important than now, especially with COVID-19 lurking about. So, make it a point to take simple steps. These could include swapping your butter for olive oil or reaching for an apple instead of a piece of toast. Small changes to your diet will help you reap the benefits of a sound mind and body, and guide you through the days ahead.
TAKE A BREAK FROM THE NEWS
For many, this year has felt like one long and endless disaster headline. And while it’s important to be informed on how to stay safe in these times, too much exposure to disheartening news stories is harmful to your thought processes.
Try to cut down your news intake from news apps and social media by being observant of your habits and giving yourself a definite limit to the amount of time you spend on these sites. Since the news can be quite addictive, you can wean yourself gradually, or go cold turkey. It’s entirely up to you.
With smartphones, you can use screen time limiting features to examine which apps you spend a lot of time on and reduce how long you spend on those apps. Whether you look at it or not, the news will not change. Do yourself a favour and be attentive to how you consume it.
STAY ACTIVE, STAY SAFE
Most people are aware of how exercise is beneficial, and even babies are encouraged to take pride in their monumental first steps. But knowing and actually doing can often be very far apart. Honestly, it can be challenging to find the motivation to take those first steps into a more active lifestyle. With gyms and other public workout spaces branded as red zones in this pandemic, finding ways to get that extra push to challenge yourself can be a grim prospect. Fortunately, all is not lost.
Staying active while staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic can still be accomplished. You may choose to take a walk in your neighbourhood or go for a run in a nearby park while keeping a safe distance from people and wearing a mask. If you need someone to support and guide you to be consistent and efficient in your workouts, exercising with a personal trainer online and in the comfort of your home or backyard is another great option. Alternatively, you could access free home workouts from certified trainers easily on youtube.
Regular exercise is known to improve your mood and sleep quality, relieve stress, lower anxiety, and reduce depression. In other words, you probably shouldn’t skip today’s workout.
Meditation is a powerful tool for the mind. Think of it as a workout for the mind. Although it may be difficult to really get into at first, it has several benefits that make it worth a try. Just like physical exercise, it is known to relieve stress, control anxiety, and improve sleep. Additionally, meditation can help reduce blood pressure, fight addictions, and even help to control pain.
The best part is, you don’t need to travel to an ashram in India to get a quality dose of meditation. There are countless videos on YouTube and several meditation apps that you can use literally anywhere. Your journey to mindfulness is ironically just a few clicks away. Take advantage of that.
FOSTER A FOUR-LEGGED FRIEND
Barring allergies and phobias, fostering a pet can do amazing things for your emotional health. Several shelters have been hit hard by the pandemic and need the help of foster families to care for animals with no forever homes. The greatest cost you will encounter while fostering a pet is your love since shelters will hopefully supply you with some pet food, toys, leashes, and other resources needed to care for your new friend. The bottom line is that you basically get a free emotional boost while being a superhero to an otherwise homeless companion. Look at you go!
This step is quite easy because family and friends are often only a phone call, email, or text message away. Staying connected to your loved ones is vital to maintaining a well-balanced psyche, especially in today’s world. Loneliness and isolation are known to be harmful both physically and mentally, as they can predispose you to depression, dementia, heart disease, and even suicide. Be sure to stay in touch with the ones you love so that you can support each other through what has already been a tough year.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
This cannot be emphasized enough. You need to take it easy on yourself. Everyone deals with stress differently, and this year has served up more than enough stress to go around.
Pay attention to your thought patterns and recognize when it’s time to take a moment to yourself. You might want to engage in a hobby, clear your head with your favourite music, or simply do some quick and easy breathing exercises. Recognize the little things that bring you joy and try to incorporate them into your daily routine.
This year has been a long one, and there’s still a long way to go. Take steps to be prepared to handle whatever else the year throws at you, and you will be poised to emerge stronger at the end of it.
Alexandra Eva-May is a writer, blogger, speaker, mental health advocate, educator and founder of The Splendid Path. Surviving her own battle with depression, Alexandra is candid about her mental health journey to help break down shame or stigma that still exists. She writes about mental health, self-care, wellness and the complicated emotions that arise from life-changing experiences like divorce and infertility. You can find her on her blog, Instagram or Pinterest.