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Staying in and being cooped up in the house is not how I pictured this year going for me, and I’m guessing it’s not what you had planned for yourself either.
At first, I thought since I enjoy being indoors and alone, it wouldn’t be much of a problem. Little did I know, COVID-19 would force me to stay home and would attack my mental health.
Sometimes when I write, I often find myself glaring out the window; I admire the view because it makes my head feel like I’m travelling to the horizon with just my eyes.
However, when you spend the majority of your day, every day confined within the same four walls, your mind begins to tell you that you feel trapped.
Figuring out how I would overcome that and have a sense of freedom while staying inside was a challenge, and there are lots of things I wish I knew before attempted to restore my former state of mind.
#1 Self-care is a selfless priority
As much as it’s been a difficult time for everyone, we need to look after ourselves. It isn’t selfish to do so because we need to be okay before checking on anyone else. No one should make us feel guilty for it.
Being stronger for everyone else has always been my top priority. More than that, somewhere through the years, as I was growing up, it became a role; I saw myself go from an ordinary person trying to find my way to this natural mental and emotional support system my loved ones always needed.
I frequently had the outdoors to escape into when I felt backed into a corner by all the challenges they faced that piled up on my own.
But this year, particularly when the third wave hit, and there was nowhere to walk or run, I felt like the struggles of those around me were written on the four walls of my small apartment. I was staring at those issues like they were scribbled over my own over those off-white walls. They haunted me, and I focused on them and everyone else instead of me.
Soon, I noticed I was crumbling inside because I neglected to take care of myself.
Every day, I crumbled a bit more inside that house. At some point, there were no pieces big enough for me to hold me together. I was just empty and weak and didn’t know why.
We must never let our obligations get in the way of taking care of ourselves, especially now. You need yourself as much as others do, and without facing the internal struggles going on, you can’t be fit enough to fight the external challenges headed your way.
For more on this read: How Self-Compassion Can Help You Cope with the Global Pandemic
#2 Positivity goes a long way
I have never been one to believe in positivity. I didn’t think it made a difference to my state of mind, and I figured if I just told myself I was okay I would be okay.
But the past few months have taught me otherwise.
Starting my morning off with something positive like listening to a good podcast or watching something funny can uplift me from the jump and give me something to appreciate at the end of the day.
Moreover, sometimes creative activities inspire positive feelings or make you feel productive. Personally, waking up getting the right song on my phone and writing a few phrases makes me feel accomplished, and that act alone is enough to keep my head in the clouds even if I’m stuck on the ground.
Additionally, workouts helped me.
Physical fitness is almost like mental fitness, and when your body feels good, your mind feels just as well.
They don’t have to be exhausting workouts, just something simple like light yoga stretches for beginners—anything to get your blood pumping and your body feeling active.
Productivity inspires mental positivity, and that can take your mental health a long way!
#3 Music is a mood changer
I have a playlist for almost every mood or activity I want to do. I believe most people do. I used to listen to specific genres, one more than the other. I was always in the same half angst/mellow mood, and of course, the problem with this was oblivious as to the way.
It dawned on me during quarantine that just because I felt upset didn’t mean I had to stay that way.
If anything, I could use music to change my state.
Afro beats made me want to dance. Upbeat songs with a bit of a fast tempo or catchy lyrics made me smile. It was great.
For those few minutes, while the lyrics played and I sang along, I forgot my frustrations. I kept calm and just relaxed.
It’s probably no secret that we sometimes use music to further wallow inside a dark emotional rabbit hole. But what we don’t realise is that it could quickly turn into a bad habit. For this reason, we should try to avoid spending hours extending our sadness through music, where there is no sense of healing.
The more time we spend upset, the worse the long-term effects can be on our mental health.
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#4 Commit to prioritizing mental health
The first few days may feel like there’s no progress. I should know. I wanted to fall back to my old habits because the truth is I love my mellow music. Sure it feels like a depressive episode playing out in my head, but it still felt good because I loved the songs I played.
It felt normal to look out for others before myself because it’s what I’m used to and it was comfortable.
Not to mention how I didn’t want to believe that I needed positive practices to stay healthy mentally. I thought I could just “be okay”; I was dead wrong.
These suggestions may sound simple to do, but if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that I have to actively commit to doing them, no matter how simple they seem.
The end results are worth it.
Coming out on the other side of this pandemic alive and virus-free should not be the only priority we have.
We should strive to sustain our mental health, making sure our minds are as disinfected as our bodies.
After all, what’s the point of coming out on the other side physically healthy if we’re mentally not?
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