Self-care is one of the most important skills we can develop when it comes to protecting our own health. When we follow basic forms of self-care such as eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of sleep, we’re more energized, better at fighting infections, and generally healthier. The pandemic has made taking good care of our health more important than ever since a strong immune system can help prevent more serious COVID-19 infections.
However, it’s not just our physical health we need to think about as we make our way through this pandemic. Mental health is also at serious risk right now. Living in a constant state of stress is challenging enough — add in losing social support and economic uncertainty, and you get a dangerous combination. Rates of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are on the rise.
The Mynd Clinic wants to help. That’s why we’ve created this self-care guide full of simple, effective tools for protecting physical and mental health. Here’s how to get started.
Eating the Right Foods
One of the core aspects of a healthy body and mind is a varied, nutritious diet. However, few people turn to salads and ancient grains when we’re stressed. Junk food tends to give us a quick hit of endorphins, which makes it extremely appealing in our lowest moods. That said, keeping treats to a minimum and focusing on healthier options will do our bodies better.
When it comes to truly managing moods, certain foods can be especially useful. Some foods, such as avocado, yogurt, and turkey have depression-busting properties that will make a big difference in your mental health. Adding bananas to your breakfast or working fatty fish into dinners can go a long way toward building emotional stability.
Address Your Environment
Many people have spent nearly a year now sheltering in place, meaning they’ve experienced nearly all of the stress of the pandemic at home. This kind of sustained stress in one environment can cause you to start associating the environment with the stress so that you can never fully relax — even when circumstances could otherwise allow it. That’s why it’s important to take some time to reset your home’s energy after long periods of anxiety.
This can be a simple project or a large undertaking — it all depends on what you’re interested in. A full renovation or decoration change will certainly do the trick, but so will smaller measures such as burning sage, opening a window, or rearranging the furniture. It’s all about helping your brain create new, positive associations with your space.
Another reliable and effective form of self-care for mood stabilization is to make sure you’re getting plenty of quality sleep. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night to be healthy and manage stress, but it’s not just hours of sleep you need - you also need to make sure you’re getting high-quality rest. Bad habits such as using screens in bed or listening to music while you sleep can lower your sleep quality, meaning you don’t get nearly as much rest as you might think.
Simple sleep hygiene changes can go a long way toward ensuring your mind goes into the deeper sleep cycles it needs for true restorative rest. For example, resolve to stop using screens an hour before bed. Avoid doing work in bed or, ideally, even near bed. Make sure your sleep environment is quiet, dark, and slightly cool in order to fall — and stay — asleep.
Right now, good self-care can be the difference between crashing and coping. Give yourself the tools you need to manage your emotions and keep a level head despite the stress of the world around you. In doing so, you’ll develop skills that will carry you through the pandemic and beyond, into a happier, healthier life.
Need a little more support in order to maintain emotional wellbeing? Check out The Mynd Clinic’s Services for mental health therapy.
Written by our guest blog contributor: Cheryl Conklin