13 ways to stay grounded during a pandemic for your mental health and why they work.
Many of our lives have been completely turned upside down, inside out – you name it – over the last couple weeks thanks to the outbreak of COVID-19. Focusing on your mental health right now is more important than ever, although always extremely important. Switching so suddenly from commuting to work to quarantining yourself at home, possibly by yourself or engaging in an active social life to cutting it out completely can leave you feeling a huge void. I’m not a therapist, licensed psychologist, etc. but I do know what feeling anxious, frustrated, fearful, etc. feels like. I’ve written about how homesteading has been beneficial for my personal mental health, but we aren’t all in a situation where we can start a homestead. These are a few things I do and you can do, also, when I feel the need to re-ground.
How to start tending to your mental health during COVID-19
First, understand that you are not alone in feeling extreme fear, frustration, anxiety, etc. There are so many individuals globally feeling one or more of those emotions. In fact, the CDC has even published a guide on coping during COVID-19. I feel scared at times and definitely feel the frustration and fear factor. I don’t know a single person who has experienced anything like this. Reach out to your friends and let them know you’re okay, or ask how they are. I’ve contacted a couple of handfuls of folks since COVID-19 showed up in the states just to see how they’re holding up.
Second, acknowledge what you’re feeling. I’m going to be the first to tell you that I want to look sturdy, grounded and strong for the loved ones surrounding me. It can be hard to let your guard down at a time where we, as a whole human race, are so vulnerable. After you acknowledge you’re feeling emotions that might be totally new to you, put them away for a while. Understand it’s okay to have all the emotions you do, and then place them in order to ground yourself. You can take charge, instead of being taken charge of. Here are a few ways I slow down at home.
Trying out new recipes can be such a fun thing to do. Not to mention you can get the whole family involved if you want to! Make fun, frozen drinks and try them out or choose your favorite childhood recipe that you forgot about loving so much. The great thing about trying out new (or forgotten!) recipes is you have to focus on the ingredients, thus giving you a moment of relief from focusing on what’s going on in the world. Pinterest is a great place to find fun new recipes of all types, no matter your diet or lifestyle. Let me know if you cook often to support your mental health (or if you’ve picked it up just for the quarantine!)
Surely I can not be the only person who cleans to declutter their mind. Personally, my mental health leans heavily on my ability to clean. I look forward to doing the dishes or washing the laundry. It isn’t because of the act itself, but because it’s instant gratification and something I can take control of when I feel that control is so out of reach. With the dishes, one moment the sink is full of dirty plates and silverware and then the sink is spotless. It gives me a sense of completion and leaves me feeling a little more “light”, yet grounded.
There have been studies done on why gardening is good for your mental health but I don’t really think you need them. Ask any gardener out there how they feel in their garden. I bet at least 75% of them tell you their garden is a safe space. When I’m out in the garden, I feel at peace. I think that every individual should be required to grow something once in their life. I’ve learned patience from gardening, acceptance when it doesn’t work, and I’ve applied the patience and acceptance to all areas of my life (including how I treat myself). Throughout my isolation at home, I’ve made it a point to go out to my garden space. I’m rebuilding them right now so shoveling dirt is a wonderful (and healthy) way to release my general frustration. Then I shower and cook a fresh meal. It’s worked so far! There’s been talk of folks growing Victory Gardens in a result of COVID-19 and I think that would be a beautiful outcome (minus the potential food shortage, of course)
You might have seen the giphys popping up on facing that say “Breath in, Hold, Breathe out”. Being told to breathe can be an annoying command because we breathe all the time. The goal is to slow down your breath. Breathing in, holding the breath, then breathing out while focusing only on it. I’ve broken down in tears from simply breathing before because it guides you to do something many of us don’t naturally do. The first time you allow yourself to listen, tune into your thoughts or the way you emotionally feel at your core is profound. You can stop to breathe anywhere you are.
I bet some of you feel that organizing when you’re mental health isn’t at its top performance is a terrible idea. HEAR ME OUT. Just like when I do the dishes, the beauty of organizing or decluttering something is that you’re physically taking control of a situation and making it better while being able to actually see the transformation at the end. This can be something simple such as organizing your shirts by color or your books by height on the bookshelf. I feel organizing has a lingering effect, also, because once you’ve organized it then it’s organized…at least for some time being. Try it out, let me know what you think.
Okay, every single one of you is capable are doing this. I’m seriously suggesting that you just go sit outside. BUT the catch is you don’t bring any electronics. You can bring your family members, although I do prefer to do this alone. Ideally, you would go outside alone and unplugged and sit. On a towel, a chair, the grass or whatever you please. Close your eyes and listen. Succumb to your surroundings. Mentally note what you notice. Especially at this time, you might hear a lot less than usual since cities are quiet and the roads are less crowded. When I sit outside I hear the wind, the leave rustling, and so many different birds. Breathe the fresh air (it’s probably the freshest it’s been in a long time). Go outside and sit.
Listen to music
If you haven’t noticed right now there is A LOT of musicians doing live shows from their home that you can stream on Facebook! I’ve watched some of my most favorite artists multiple times already which I’m thrilled about because I’m in Florida and nobody ever comes here. ANYWAY, listening to music is my go-to. It’s rare that I am not listening to music. A lot of people turn to music; it’s such a healthy outlet. Sometimes I cry, sing loudly, laugh, or just sit silently. Just depends on my mood. What do you listen to in times of despair or bliss? Let me know!
Create a routine
THIS. IS. SO. IMPORTANT. If you have any kind of anxiety, depression, fear, frustration, etc. I feel it’s so important to create a good routine. Especially since we’re all COVID-19 quarantined and some of us are home more now than we’ve ever been. Your mental health has to come first and that can start with creating a routine. I don’t mean to set an “every 30-minutes” schedule (unless that works for you). An example would be to make your bed every morning when you wake up. Or develop a routine of taking your cup of tea or coffee outside and sitting before the house wakes up. Set a few things that you do every day and you’ll find you be looking forward to them. A little bit of joy is sometimes all we ever need.
Talk to someone
I’ll say it again for the people in the back…please talk to someone. It is so hard to talk to people when you’re feeling anything strongly, especially fear during a pandemic when none of us can really make sense of what we’re feeling. If you reach out to a few people, I bet you’ll find they’re experiencing feelings similar to yours. Call, text a close friend. Skype, Facebook video, Zoom, and WhatsApp are outlets I know of to video chat and they’re all free. Seeing a human that isn’t in your home right now is oddly comforting. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, reach out to a therapist.
There’s a great new-ish resource called BetterHelp that offers professional, licensed counseling from the comfort of your home. You go there and answer a few questions then they pair you with the best counselor fit. BetterHelp states on their website the cost is $40 to $70 per week (billed monthly) and includes unlimited access to your counselor. I haven’t used the service yet but have been thinking about it since my therapist I used to go to isn’t available. It’s hard to ask for help y’all, it’s no different for us sitting online talking about it. If I decide to use the service during COVID-19, I promise to write my honest opinion on my personal experience!
Eat healthy foods
Trust me, I’m thinking it too. “Booooooooo healthy foods!” I LOVE junk food, y’all. Yes, I grow and raise my own food but that does not mean I won’t take down a box of girl scout cookies in a day if you let me. I can’t even keep the stuff in the house anymore! If I allowed myself junk food while quarantining myself in a house while COVID-19 was still going on, I’d be totally done for.
The reason I’m telling you to eat healthy foods is that you physically feel better when you do ( I know this one from pure experience). I feel mentally healthier when my diet consists of predominately lox carb foods, but that’s what works best for me. Am I perfect at it? Nope. Did I eat a grilled cheese with tomato soup when my sister got to town? Yes. But I got right back on my healthy eating lifestyle the next morning.
Find what makes you feel great and stick with it. Although you think that sweets are your savior, that broccoli will make you feel way better in the long run. Also, I’m really trying not to gain weight while I’m stuck at home all day for the next few weeks (at least).
Do Yoga or Meditate
Meditation is hard for me so I don’t do it nearly as much as I should but yoga I love. It was hard to initially begin doing yoga. It felt almost silly and like I was doing it all wrong. After a few times on my mat practicing Yoga with Adrienne, I was hooked. The COVID-19 quarantine is going to be a great time to get back into a rhythm of it. Also, yoga and meditation are things you could work into a schedule. In the mornings when you go outside to just sit, try meditating for a few minutes and quieting your mind. Try out “Yoga with Adrienne” if it’s your first time practicing yoga. She’s very patient, has a calming voice and adds just the right amount of humor. Namaste!
Get physically active
It’s known worldwide that getting your endorphins flowing is a good idea for your mental health. When your body reduces endorphins it actually acts on the opiate receptors in your brain! This means you feel better, feel less stressed. I don’t exercise nearly enough and I know that. My husband is great at pushing me to get active. BUT I feel amazing after I get done doing anything physical. Yoga, shoveling amazing amounts of dirt for my gardens, going for a walk, running, etc. Try to get your family outside for a walk while you’re still under the COVID-19 quarantine.
Listen to an ebook or podcast
There was a time in my life where I would’ve rather walked on glass than listen to a book on tap or a podcast. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to appreciate them! I’ve found myself so engulfed in some of the books I’ve listened to. Podcasts are great, also, although I haven’t listened to quite as many. My husband listens to The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz and I actually find it quite funny. I plan to listen to more podcasts while COVID-19 is still hanging around. As far as some of the books I’ve listened to and absolutely loved, try these if you’re new to eBooks! I use Audible:
- Lonesome Dove, Comanche Moon and Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry
- Flight Behavior, Prodigal Summer, and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbar Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible was my first ever eBook!)
- All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (Amazing for all farmers, homesteaders, and veterinarians!
- Slow by Brooke McAlary
- Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (SO funny)
Don’t write off your mental health, y’all…
Now, I know some of you might have read this and thought I must be completely out of my mind if I expect you to clean and organize when you’re feeling stressed out. That is totally fine! What works for me does not have to work for you. The most important part of all this is to find what your sanctuary can be. Find a way to escape your anxieties, fears, and frustration in the healthiest way possible in order to take care of yourself and the ones around you. COVID-19 will eventually simmer down and we’ll all be able to get back to a regular routine. I do hope we all find the silver linings throughout all this and develop some great tools to carry with us into life-after-a-pandemic. Slow down, ground yourself, live intentionally.