By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
Our current situation lends itself to stress, anxiety, and even fear. We’re worried about our health and that of our families. We’re worried about our jobs, fearful that things will never get back to “normal.” These emotions are natural—we all have them. It’s important to be gentle with yourself and your family and take the steps necessary to support your mental well-being. A support group can provide additional help, and chances are good you already have one you can turn to in your life.
As mentioned, most of us have a support group built into our lives somewhere. The trick is recognizing them for what they are. For instance, in many cases, your family can provide the support and help you need when you’re struggling with stress and anxiety or emotional distress. However, many other people can be part of your support system.
Your family may be the first ones to turn to during this difficult time. Kids can talk to their parents, spouses and partners can turn to one another, and even more distant family members—aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.—can provide help during this time. Of course, not everyone can turn to family members. Some of us are on our own. Others may have unsupportive family members who are struggling more than we are.
When your family isn’t available as a support group, or you need more help than what they can provide, turn to your friends. It could be a childhood friend you still talk to or a friend you’ve made at church or work. Often, friends can offer different types of help than family. You can talk to a friend differently than you can to a parent or even a spouse in some cases.
Another place to turn for emotional support is your employer or your church. Organizations often make important resources available that can help with emotional distress. For churchgoers, consider speaking with your pastor or priest, or even a deacon. For kids, a Sunday School teacher might be easier to communicate with, or maybe a youth leader. And for adults, the church can offer important help, but you can also reach out to your employer. Most businesses today are making important mental and emotional health tools available to their employees, including counseling (online and in-person).
Sometimes you may not have access to friends or family. Organizational resources may also not be available to you. However, there is help. You can find it through online resources, as well as physical helpline services. You’ll find direct links to some of the most critical mental health and emotional distress resources below:
While speaking with a family member, friend, or counselor is a vital step toward improving your mental health and well-being, there are other resources available to you. In this section, we’ll outline a few things that you can do to help cope with COVID-19, the resulting social isolation, and the feelings of hopelessness and loss that often accompany the “new normal” in which we find ourselves.
Whether you choose to take advantage of an external support group or not, you should create a mental health first-aid system in your life. This should consist of supports and touchstones that help you combat anxiety and worry, and come back stronger, calmer, and happier. What goes into this system?
Take a break from social media. The negative influence of Facebook and other social platforms can exacerbate stress and anxiety, making things worse. Now might also be a good time to detox your friends list and either mute, unfollow, or unfriend some of those who are contributing to your anxiety and stress.
Get outside and exercise. There are plenty of mental health benefits of nature, including a deeper sense of calm, a sense of reconnecting with our lives, and more. A simple walk can do wonders for your emotional and mental health, or ramp things up and go for a jog, do yoga outdoors, and more.
Your diet might not seem like it lends itself to mental health and wellness, but it does. Consuming fat-heavy or sugar-laden foods can cause emotional crashes, reduce energy levels, and generally just make you feel worse. A healthy diet, on the other hand, helps you feel energetic and supports a positive mood.
Yes, toxic positivity can be a problem, but that doesn’t mean focusing on the positive is bad. Cultivating a brighter outlook has some profound effects on mental health. Couple positivity with a more grateful mindset and you have a one-two punch that will knock out anxiety and stress.
Few practices have as profound an impact on our mental health, outlook, and even physical well-being than meditation does. Of course, jumping into meditation can be pretty challenging. Where do you even start? You could consider meditation with Muse 2 as a good starting point (although it can also work very well for advanced practitioners!).
Many of us are struggling with stress, anxiety, and even fear in the current environment. It’s normal, natural, and completely understandable. Find your support group and work with them to improve your mental and emotional health.
Also, make use of the other tips and tactics we’ve covered here to improve your life. While anxiety might be understandable and natural, there’s no need to let it control your life. Meditation, physical exercises, getting outside in nature, and taking a break from social media, coupled with a change in your diet, can all have profound effects on your life.