How do you move forward when life throws you one curveball after another? Sometimes despite personal best efforts, external factors influence your mood. They may be due to political, economic, or health and safety threats. By focusing on your overall well-being, you can improve the strength of your mind, body, and spirit so you can heal from a difficult time and come out a stronger, more resilient person.
Finding a “new normal”
A “new normal” is discussed in times of great loss – whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a new job, or loss of routine, as is the case during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s during these extreme times that our sense of being is shaken to its core. Our daily activities are altered by this new reality.
When life changes suddenly, dramatically, or relentlessly, maintaining emotional well-being is challenging, as feelings of sadness, uncertainty, and overwhelm can make it difficult to cope.
Holidays, birthdays, a song, scent, or even different seasons can all trigger bouts of sadness and turmoil.
Know that unsettling emotions may come and go. You may have a good day followed by a bad one, and vice versa. It’s like a rollercoaster.
You may feel ready to bury your head in the sand.
Remind yourself, though, that life is always uncertain. It’s just more magnified during life-changing moments.
Allow yourself to feel the way you do
Sometimes we ride the rollercoaster alone, and other times we do it collectively, like during COVID-19.
The emotional and mental health impacts of COVID-19 are well known.
Comparing your reactions to others or worrying about how you “should” be feeling could add to the emotional weight you are carrying. Even though many of us may be suffering from a range of emotions, we may experience them and cope in different ways.
Try to avoid devaluing your thoughts and feelings about COVID-19 and its impact on your life.
- Acknowledge and accept your feelings. You are not alone, even though you may feel that way.
- View your emotions without judgment.
- Identify triggers and contributing factors. These may include a chronic condition, insufficient sleep, medication, or self-medicating with alcohol.
- Seek help when needed. It is a sign of strength to ask for it.
Get mental health support
It’s ok to not be ok. Lean on friends, family, and professionals for support.
If you had cancer, you would likely not try to “tough it out.” Your emotional and mental health is no different.
The NAMI Helpline is a free, nationwide peer-support service.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential treatment referral and information services. It’s available 24/7 in English and Spanish.
Supportiv is an anonymous support network that focuses on mental wellness, rather than therapy options. It connects you with peers experiencing the same life struggle.
HelpGuide provides actionable articles and resources to help you get started on the path to improved mental well-being.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255) or dial 911 in case of emergency.
Focus on your physical well-being
Your well-being comes from a strong mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t feel good physically, you probably won’t feel good mentally and vice versa.
And taking action does not have to be complicated or outrageously expensive. For example, you can:
- eliminate processed food, decrease sugar intake, and increase your intake of water
- start or expand a walking program
- get outside
- find exercise videos online
- establish a sleep ritual
- make sure you have a PCP to help with preventive care guidance and management of any underlying conditions
Now, that is not to say that it will be easy, especially if you are at the beginning of a healthy lifestyle journey. But taking those first steps will help create momentum, and feeling better will help maintain motivation. And taking action with others can provide mutual support and the extra push needed on those days you just aren’t feeling it.
For those with underlying medical conditions, your increased risk of COVID-19 complications and death can be reduced by doing your best to manage your conditions, e.g., making sure your blood pressure and blood sugar levels are under control, being adherent to treatment plans, taking your medication correctly, and letting your healthcare practitioner know if/when you face barriers.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the fathers of mindfulness and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, describes mindfulness as “awareness by paying attention in the present moment non-judgmentally as if it really mattered.”
Mindfulness helps protect against stress and feelings of overwhelm by building new neural pathways and changing the relative size of certain parts of the brain. And it aids in differentiating our thoughts and beliefs from objective facts and reality. Having that ability can come in handy if you engage in negative self-talk. Thinking something does not make it true.
Mindfulness has been shown to be beneficial for those with health issues such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, cancer, chronic disease, work and family emotional stress, eating disorders, heart disease, and insomnia. It may also help protect our brains from cognitive decline.
Mindfulness can make you more attuned to your body, increase self-awareness and empathy, build resilience, improve work-life harmony, and enhance your relationships with others.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness from meditation to mindful eating. It does not have to take a lot of time; you don’t need any equipment, and it’s free.
Find hope during difficult times
“Hope rises like a phoenix from the ashes of shattered dreams.”
~ S.A. Sachs
According to BirdNote, “The ancient Greeks and Egyptians described a mythical bird called the Phoenix, a magnificent creature that was a symbol of renewal and rebirth. According to legend, each Phoenix lived for 500 years, and only one Phoenix lived at a time. Just before its time was up, the Phoenix built a nest and set itself on fire. Then, a new Phoenix would rise from the ashes.”
Undoubtedly, we will face difficult times in life.
During COVID-19, life will likely continue to be more uncertain than usual. There will be ongoing disruptions to daily routines. The repercussions of the novel coronavirus will be myriad and many.
Flexibility, agility, self-compassion, empathy, and kindness to others will stand you in good stead.
And perhaps most critical to sustaining us will be hope. Hope that comes when things are good and reminds us nothing lasts forever when things have gone awry.
Hope and the energy it brings when we experience the goodness in others and that serves as a bulwark when we witness or suffer the venom of another’s basest instincts and acts of inhumanity. And finally, hope that arises from having faith in ourselves and in the dreams we envision of a better future.
(Personal Insight MD, LLC, PeopleTweaker, and Insight MD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are feeling extreme anger with thoughts and actions harmful to yourself or others such as physical/verbal abuse or acts of violence, find yourself self-medicating with alcohol, illicit drugs, etc., expressing your anger in such a way that threaten relationships or your job, etc. seek professional help immediately and call 911 if necessary if you find yourself in an out-of-control situation or have the urge to hurt yourself or others.)