• Joel Rosenberg, Chief Mental Health Officer

At-home mental health tips # 1

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Most of us are likely finding some parts of life challenging right now. Some of the challenges we are facing are unique to our own thoughts and feelings and experience, and some are quite common. One many of us are facing has to do with keeping ourselves healthy and happy. If you’re finding it challenging at times to keep your mental health up, rest assured, you’re not alone.

More than 50% of Canadians have reported a drop in their mental health (Sunlife, 2020).

This shouldn’t be surprising, when life is stressful in ways we’re not used to and in ways that we can’t control, our mental health often dips down. Apart from maintaining general health habits (get sleep, eat right, exercise), here are three tips specially designed for good mental health during COVID-19 isolation.

1) Keep a consistent schedule.

Right now, a lot of life feels uncertain and outside of our control. Our schedule is one thing that we CAN control, which will give us a sense of familiarity and certainty. It will help keep you productive and accountable for spending your time on things that matter, and it will have added benefits of helping with many other elements of your health like your sleep (a consistent wake time is important for being able to fall asleep at night).

Whether your primary focus during the week is work, school, or self-improvement, set a schedule for what you’re going to do during each week day, and stick to it. If pre-COVID-19, you used to workout at 6pm before dinner, or practice an instrument or read before bed, make sure to still do those things at those times as well. Finally, it’s important to also give yourself designated time off.

Many Canadians are actually working MORE now that they’re at home. Downtime is important for your health and productivity though. Protect it and use it in a similar way to how you would have when you were going into school or the office. For example, if you would usually catch up on TV on a Saturday morning, or go on a weekend hike with friends, still do those things without having your email open, or pushing them off until tomorrow.

Take a second now to reflect and write down one “down-time” activity you can commit to without distraction each week.

2) Connect with your purpose

Finding meaning in how we spend our time is one of the most important factors in many different parts of our mental health. It helps us feel more connected to our “true self”, it helps us feel valuable in our social circles, and it gives us something to feel good about. What that purpose is and how we fulfill it is totally up to us though! As long as it’s important to you, and you’re taking at least one action towards fulfilling it, you’re on the right path!

Some examples could be:

  • finding purpose in helping others who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, and volunteering for a food delivery service,

  • finding purpose in doing excellent work or being an exceptional employee, and consistently delivering excellent work results without needing to be asked or supervised,

  • finding purpose in your family, and being the person who organizes a Google Meet hangout each week and messages a group WhatsApp chat each day

You can and even should mix and match, one day you may be tapping into your purpose of being a good friend by supporting a family member or friend who is struggling, and the next day, being a rockstar employee by waking up early and publishing a blog post (*cough cough*).

The trick is to tap into that personal sense of meaning and purpose each day, and to do so deliberately. This means not to do it just because you “have to” (e.g. your brother called you and was panicking), but because this is what’s important to you and this is what you CHOSE to do (e.g. your brother called you panicking, and he’s important to you, so you chose to talk him through it rather than doing something else). Even though the action is the same, the way you frame it for yourself is important.

Take a second now to reflect and write down one thing about who you are or what you care about (the first thing that comes to mind!).

3) Learning acceptance

Acceptance can feel really hard, and it’s one of the most powerful tools we have to help our mind get through tough times. Until we accept what’s going on around us, we can’t do anything about it. Once we accept our reality in this moment, if we can control it, we can go about fixing it. And if we can’t control the tough thing or situation, accepting it as our reality gives us the power to begin to cope with it.

An important note on acceptance: just because you accept it, doesn’t mean you have to like it or even approve of it.

For example, imagine that we’re an extrovert who lives alone. We hardly get any in person social connection, and that’s what usually makes us feel good. We may be feeling pretty low and glum, and pretty hopeless as we see COVID-19 drag on week over week. Until we accept that this state of not physically seeing our friends is our reality for now, we’re going to continue to feel pretty glum and hopeless. If we push through to accepting it, we can then begin to problem solve.

We can schedule regular Zoom sessions with friends, we can reach out to other extroverts to see how they’re coping, and when we’re feeling really low, we can accept that we’re going to feel this way at times, and do things to distract ourselves and find pleasure (e.g. take a bath, eat a good meal, watch your favourite movie or show, read your favourite book). Because let’s face it, if you’re going to feel low about something, and you can’t change it, would you rather feel low in a bubble bath reading your favourite book, or lying on the couch with your face buried in the pillow.

By accepting our situation, we could also begin to find greater value and pleasure in small face to face interactions, like having a slightly longer small talk with the cashier at the grocery store or the nod of a stranger we pass on our jog. While it still may not be a “good” situation, and the low mood might still be around at times, the hopelessness will subside, and our low mood will lessen.

Curious how to start accepting something that feels bad? Check out the Radical Acceptance skill by downloading the Resili App below.

For more tips like these, or more information on how to apply these tips, download the Resili App here for free.

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