The past year has tested many of us in ways that we may have never imagined. Experiencing pandemic fatigue can affect not only our physical state, but it also has effects on our mental well-being. Many of us may feel ill-prepared for lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, but this new normal is something we all must get used to.
The pervasive effects of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed as a way of controlling the coronavirus spread seem designed to harm our mental health, limiting us from the things that give our lives purpose and bring us pleasure. Even if you have never previously thought about mental health, chances are it’s on your radar today. And keeping your mental health in check is now more important than ever, as every day in this new reality can bring about new challenges and restrictions. Recent news headlines tend to incite fear and create added stress. So, what can we do to build positive habits that strengthen our mental health with all that’s going on in the world today?
Marc Stocco is Surrey, BC native, student athlete, and mental health advocate. He has been playing baseball for most of his life. He discusses several positive habits for improving mental health and well-being.
Know Your Purpose
Have you ever heard of the term “know your why?” Well, it’s one of the most important things to understand about your own life and what gives it meaning. Finding purpose in your everyday may seem even more difficult in a pandemic-stricken world; however, it’s more important than ever, as without a purpose, one can be prone to mental health issues such as depression.
Marc Stocco says that notes that when you dedicate specific time to think about what gives your life meaning, you will be more motivated to go about your day with positivity and joy. Something as simple as self-reflection for a few minutes every morning can really set the tone for your day.
Ask yourself the following questions before getting out of bed or while you’re enjoying your favourite morning beverage:
- What is most important to me?
- What am I most grateful for?
- Am I living true to myself?
- Am I taking care of myself?
- What’s one goal I want to achieve today?
Overall, reflecting on yourself and knowing your purpose is a healthy and adaptive practice that, when done regularly, can have a positive impact on your overall mental health and well-being.
Be Kind to Yourself
A sure sign of positive mental health is that you are compassionate with yourself — even through the toughest of times. There will be times in your life where mistakes are made and it’s up to you to handle such situations in a gentle, rational way, notes Marc Stocco.
Self-compassion means that, in more difficult times, you treat yourself like you would a friend or family member — in an empathetic, balanced, and non-judgmental way. Ironically though, this is quite often a challenge. While most of us are compassionate and understanding with others, we have a more difficult time being compassionate with ourselves.
When we make mistakes, we immediately begin to criticize ourselves with negative self-talk and jump to conclusions about our outcomes. While this is normal human nature, understanding how to take a more balanced view of our mistakes and failures will result in greater awareness of self-compassion and love.
Marc Stocco shares some simple ways we can be more kind to ourselves:
- Acknowledge your failures for what they are without dwelling on them
- Remind yourself that you are worthy of self-respect
- Understand that it’s okay to know when you’re feeling sad, overwhelmed, or hurt
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions (whatever they are) in a true, honest way
Establish Positive Relationships
Although there are many restrictions that prevent you from seeing your friends or family members, you can still invest in personal relationships through email, social media, telephone or video.
Now, more than ever, we must stay connected to those most important to us — it’s a positive habit that can significantly improve our mental health, notes Marc Stocco.
Taking an active interest in the welfare of others, especially those who are at a particularly vulnerable place, will secure happiness for not only yourself, but also for those who you’ve connected with.
Keep a Consistent Routine
It may seem like your normal routine has been completely uprooted since March of last year. Even with such uncertainty, it’s important for our mental health to keep consistent.
Marc Stocco recommends following these tips to keep a consistent routine:
- Set an alarm to wake up at the same time each day
- Make time for exercise or some form of light movement
- Check in with yourself to keep on track of your daily routine
- Set a bedtime routine and follow it every night
You should also try to practice this with the other members of your household. While it may be easier said than done, a consistent routine can benefit everyone’s mental health.
Practice Meditation and Deep Breathing
Meditation has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improving the volume of certain areas of the brain. It’s a positive habit to include in your daily routine that makes a big impact on mental health.
Even if meditation isn’t for you, engaging in deep breathing exercises might be, says Marc Stocco. Controlled breathing is proven to calm the mind — and a past study showed the mechanism that might explain it. In the study, researchers found that deep breathing can be used to “clinically suppress excessive arousal and stress.” So, engaging in some slow, controlled breathing work may be an especially healthy practice right now.
Marc Stocco on Getting Enough Sleep
As you may know, sleep is linked with numerous health-related benefits, both physical and mental. Lack of sleep can lead to — or even exacerbate pre-existing conditions — such as depression, stress, and anxiety. Ensuring that you get enough hours of consistent sleep is a smart strategy towards living a healthy, happy life.