5 Solid Strategies To Keeping Strong Mental Health In Uncertain Times
Image Source: Engin Akyurk
The news channels are blaring at all times of the day. “COVID 19,” they all highlight in bold letters, screaming it over the screen, the same things on repeat. During the process of writing this article, the world meter is opened on my phone, it taunts almost all of us during this global pandemic. 3,849,021 cases with an alarming death rate of 265,905. These statistics have most probably increased as the article is being read. We’re all anxious. No one notices the 1,317,085 recovered cases and how would we? The entire world is enclosed in their homes, echoing their concerns over the global crisis so intently that we almost forget about the state of our minds.
Introverts: people may assume that this is their regular routine. Nothing has changed for them, right? wrong! An introvert’s daily routine doesn’t involve a seven-member family clawing down their throat whenever they leave their rooms. Their routine doesn’t include a lack of privacy because suddenly everyone needs to bond with each other. Their books lie on their shelves, unread for over a month since this lockdown has made their house responsibilities increase by twentyfold.
Extroverts: their lively spirits are imprisoned. Not all of them have the privilege of conference calls with their friends at 2 am or gardens to devour the sun outside. Most of them are held hostage by the suffocating walls of a one-bedroom house.
Students: Some of them are relieved; their exams are suddenly “home-based” and online. Their daily 7 am routines no longer deprive them of their five minute extra mornings sleep. Some of them are alone, unable to travel back to their families. Some of them are taking the time to start a side business so that they can help their parents keep their finances afloat. Some of them are buried in a textbook, unable to fathom how a single virus could put a full stop on their future.
Parents: this is probably one of the worst times for them. For those that haven’t made a savings account because they wanted to ensure their children lived to their fullest in the present, they’re now in debt, watching their economy collapse as their children go to bed without food. Somewhere, there are parents that are battling with the police, attempting to run their businesses despite the risk of being infected because their seven-month-old hasn’t had milk in two days. Some of them are going to bed starving for the third time this week because they had five other stomachs to feed. Some of them are suffering from constant anxiety as their children scream that they’re bored for the eighth time in the day and the cleaning never seems to end. And then there are the ones that are forced to stay at home as their partners, or parents abuse them on a daily basis. According to a study found on thehotline.org: averagely, 24 people each minute are victims of domestic violence caused by an intimate partner in the United States. Seeing as everyone is held in their homes during these unfortunate times, this rate is bound to increase. With finances deteriorating and a constant sense of anxiety overwhelming us, there are several people that will now be a victim to the frustration of their partners. What can we do? This is where we all assume that nothing is in our hands now. The outside crises may no longer be in our control but we can improve our internal states. Below are a few steps on how to cope with anxiety and depression as we all struggle to keep our heads over water.
Exercise: This one may not seem like the best idea to everyone but according to Harvard Health Publishing, a person with moderate depression can use exercise as a way to cope. The reasoning behind this is that with exercise, our endorphins, also known as “happy chemicals” are released, allowing us a sense of relief. This in no way means that only intense exercise can improve one’s mood, it is also mentioned that through constant and sustained “low-intensity” exercises such as tai chi, a walk, bike riding, and a basic yoga session can release a protein called “neurotrophic” that allows for growth in a nerve cell which then makes new connections in the hippocampus which refers to the art of the brain that regulates the mood. Dr. Miller says “You should begin to feel better a few weeks after you begin exercising.” During these times, when it comes to coping with our time and emotions, many of us look to coffee and other caffeine products to be of assistance with our schedules. However, according to the Healthline, stimulants such as soda, caffeine, and alcohol need to be avoided whereas eating lean meat, vegetables, and grains may be a better diet to improve your mood. As the famous saying goes: “You are what you eat.” With that being said, I guess it’s time to stop with the Dalgona coffee TikTok.
The next coping mechanism is one of my personal favorites is...
Writing: According to research by Laura King, writing about achieving your goals and making your dreams come true can make you happier and healthier. The same applies to art and the several mental benefits of it. One can also attempt to make a fixed routine or schedule for themselves to prevent the feeling of one’s life and responsibilities collapsing. Setting goals may help with this coping mechanism. Amidst this crisis, don’t forget to reward yourself for all of the efforts you’re putting into so many things. It doesn’t have to be big and expensive, try to spend a day pampering yourself or just focusing on your own pleasures and hobbies. If you have a garden or are allowed to take a health walk to the park, do it! According to an article on positivepsychology.com, people who practice Shinrin-yoku, a Japanese method of spending time in nature which translates to “forest bathing” have “well-balanced heart conditions” as well as “reduced bowel disorders” and “optimum nervous system functions.”
Frank Llyod Wright has said: “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” And one of the most important things to remember is not to obsessively watch the news. Enlighten yourself about the crisis but do not make yourself anxious by constantly checking the death and infection rates. Instead, focus on the positive impacts we’re noticing on earth and animals. According to BBC News, one of the biggest marine routes in Turkey, the Bosphorus in Istanbul is now witnessing dolphins swimming near the banks where on any regular day, the only sight would have been cargo ships and large tankers. In Israel, Haifa, wild boars have taken to the roads while the sweet pinks of thousands of flamingos are blooming in the lagoons, ready to mate in Albania. The sea cows, also known as dugongs have been classified as vulnerable species and have finally found the time to swim around in the Hat Chao Mai National park in Thailand. Not to forget the cougars in Santiago, Chile, and the Kashmiri goats galloping in Wales. On an ending note, take the time out to help someone in need. If not financially, emotionally support a family member, a friend, a neighbor. Write notes to them, drop the WhatsApp, and emerge from the hold of social media, write a letter, borrow a book, give someone a DVD to entertain themselves.
Check up on your loved ones and those in the community. Get in touch with helplines if you know a victim of domestic violence or if you're one yourself.
If it's financially possible, donate to those in need. Several charities are asking for your help, do your best. Volunteering is known to improve one's mood.