The pandemic didn’t change overnight, but these 5 tips use what we’ve learned to maximize mental health

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FEATURE — I thought that we could put 2020 to rest and wake up in a brand new world where travel could happen, mask-free shopping could be a new reality and the news would be cheerful to watch. So far, it has not turned out quite like I had hoped.

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Many of you are feeling the same way. The fear of COVID-19, the constraints of enduring restrictions and the uncertainty of the economy are discouraging at best and depressing at worst.

I am going to give you five solid, fail-proof tips on how you can manage your mental health as you navigate through today’s unfamiliar landscape.

While your favorites of these tips may need to be repeated numerous times, collectively, they will help you thrive amidst the chaos that is swirling around you.

Connect with loved ones

If we could remember that sadness and anxiety thrive in isolation, it would drive us to find ways to connect with others. There are so many ways to connect in 2021. We may be asked not to congregate in large groups, but we are able to connect virtually on a screen.

Find an avenue to reach out to others that you have not been with for a while. Catch up and re-connect. Plan a screen-free conversation with those who live with you under the same roof. 

How long has it been since you shared a face-to-face conversation with no interruptions, no screens and no phones? I have spoken to some teenage kids who claim they never talk with their parents without interruption. Make a point in 2021 to have a set amount of uninterrupted, face-to-face time with those you care about.

Commit to never procrastinate

Stop yourself from putting things off. Make it a goal to always plan a start time for projects, tasks and important things you need to do. Honor your start time plan. Make sure you are not overbooked with responsibilities, and plan to keep your word with yourself regarding start times for your to-do list. 

This plan for not procrastinating will help with your foundation of resilience and sense of security. Instead of having the nagging feeling of stress about what you’re putting off for later, you will feel a sense of security and accomplishment.

Let go of regrets

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Regrets that we hold onto will begin to weigh us down. In fact, carrying regrets can become so global that we begin to say things like “I never do anything right” or “I can’t look forward to anything good.” We can develop global negative beliefs about ourselves like “I don’t really have any strengths.” 

Letting go of regret as we move forward is a necessary tool to keep in our mental health tool bucket. A pathway to letting go of regret utilizes three powerful steps:

  • Own the regret. Sit with it; give your regret a voice to teach you something.
  • Identify what the regret taught you. Do you need to make a small change, or do you need to seek forgiveness? 
  • Do what your regret requires you to do. Make a plan to repair the regret. If you regret not having date nights with your spouse, have a date night. You get the idea. While it may feel uncomfortable, living with regret is far worse for your mental health.

Be a tourist in your own town

When was the last time you walked around your own hometown? This tip can accomplish several healthy things for you. If you choose a sunny Saturday afternoon to wander around your hometown, your exposure to the sunshine will provide you with essential vitamin D. The exercise will stimulate good feelings, and connecting with a spouse or other loved ones while going for a walk is super positive.

While practicing good hygiene and social distancing, you can explore your hometown all year long. Plan a 15-minute adventure all the way to a day date with someone you want to spend time with.

Do one thing a day that is outside your comfort zone

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We thrive when we progress. While many of us are living under various COVID-19 restrictions, we may begin to feel stifled from losing past avenues of growth. Doing something that falls outside your normal routine, something that is uncomfortable but good for you, will open up those pathways of progress. Here are some ideas you may want to consider:

  • Think about someone who has caused you harm and forgive them.
  • First thing in the morning, pray or meditate. During your prayer or meditation, ask to be guided to someone that needs service.
  • Discover a new hobby that is possible this year. Make this new hobby stretch your mind or imagination in some way.
  • Learn something new.

These five tips put power and healthy control back in your court in ways that you can manage, giving you opportunities to be in control of your destiny amidst the chaos that is largely outside of your control. Your life will be enriched, and you will alter the pathways that lead to anxiety and depressed moods.

If you have a success story to tell me about one of these tips, check in with me by emailing [email protected]. Have a fantastic 2021!

Written by Matt Eschler, Ph.D, LMFT, Integrated Counseling and Wellness.

This article was first published in the March/April 2021 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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