The year 2020 was an incredibly trying, challenging, and uncertain time for many people. It has presented with a significant amount of loss ranging from the concrete (loved ones passing away) to the abstract (loss of routine, sense of control, specific experiences). In times like these it’s normal (and even expected) to experience a wide range of emotions from despair to anger. Social distancing for a long period of time can result in increased feelings of loneliness, sadness, anxiety, depression, burnout and disconnect. Give yourself permission to feel whatever comes up for you while also tending to your mental and emotional health. Below are 5 ways to tend to your mental health along with concrete strategies for implementing each one.
1. Stay Emotionally Connected
Being physically distanced doesn’t mean we have to be emotionally distanced. Ways to stay emotionally connected include: video chats, phone calls, texting, and / or writing letters. If you’re not feeling well and need support, don’t be afraid to let someone know what you are going through. If you’re in therapy, be sure to continue to sustain regular appointments with your therapist: it’s a healthy way to let out what you're going through with a nonjudgmental 3rd party.
2. Listen To Your Body
On the contrary, if you’re experiencing Zoom fatigue or are overwhelmed by the amount of calls or texts you're receiving due to everyone’s increase in free time, it’s okay to carve out time for yourself. This looks like doing something you want to do. If you’re body needs to rest, sleep in, are have quiet time, lean into these small pleasures with great intention. If you struggle with listening to your body, a question you can ask yourself is “What do I need right now?” and just notice what comes up for you.
3. Move Your Body
Exercise releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin (brain chemicals that aid in reducing stress, improving mood and sleep). Moving your body can include going for a long walk (put on a podcast or relaxing music, use this as an opportunity to soothe your nervous system), riding a bicycle, going for a run, doing yoga, or stretching.
4. Practice Self- Compassion
Self- Compassion is the act of extending kindness toward ourselves when we’re experiencing hardship. It includes recognizing the circumstances that contribute to our emotional state and giving ourselves some understanding, the way we would if someone we cared about was going through a difficult time. Self compassion sounds like “your feelings make sense…” “there is nothing wrong with you for feelings this way…” “I am accepting of these feelings and I don’t judge myself for them…” Offering ourselves self- compassion can help with reducing the suffering associated with what we are going through. We are all in a pandemic and we are all adjusting to the various changes and orders; give yourself grace to how your mind and body are internalizing all of the information around you.
5. Be Realistic & Be Mindful of Comparisons
Keep in mind that we are all living during unprecedented times and everyone has a very different response to what is happening. The ways in which people are coping lies on the spectrum of surviving to thriving. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, be gentle with yourself and be realistic with yourself about where your capacity and emotional cup are. It is okay to rest, it is okay to take breaks, and it is okay if you have days where all you do are the basics. Forcing yourself to be a productivity machine during a global pandemic may not be the best for your mental health; so pay attention to how your body responds to both rest and forced productivity. for As we scroll through social media and see the highlight reels of others’ it’s also important to scroll mindfully; when you find yourself in a comparison wheel, redirect your attention to something else and remind yourself that social media is a curated version of peoples’ lives. Recognize that your journey in this lifetime is uniquely yours and how you are coping is no less valid than another person’s coping.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, ALYSSA MANCAO, LCSW and Therapist
Alyssa (Lia) Mancao (@alyssamariewellness) is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist, writer, and a group practice owner based in Sherman Oaks, CA. Alyssa received her BA in Sociology from Cal Poly Pomona and her Masters of Social Work from USC. Alyssa has been a therapist for a decade working in community mental health, juvenile residential treatment, and in private practice. Her experience as a therapist includes advocacy, and treating clients who experience depression, anxiety, and trauma. Alyssa's work also encompasses assisting clients with connecting with their inner child. Alyssa has also been a guest on numerous podcasts addressing trauma, self- esteem and narcissistic abuse. Alyssa works with clients to help them make connections from the past to the present while also teaching various coping skills to help improve their symptoms and interpersonal relationships. Her approach utilizes a mix between psychodynamic modalities, cognitive behavior therapy and EMDR depending on each person's needs.