by Dr. Diana Samardzic
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging on many different levels – mental health is one area that has been drastically impacted for many individuals. Nearly a third of Americans experienced signs of anxiety and depression in 2020, which is almost double the rate of the year before. Studies over the past year have shown that young people, women, and people with younger children are particularly at heightened risk for mental health problems during the pandemic. (National Institute of Mental Health)
Perhaps you were already struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues and the pandemic only made them worse. Social isolation, job loss, and uncertainty of the future may have triggered your fears leading to worsening of symptoms. You may have experienced feeling less motivated or productive as you attempted to work from home while also homeschooling your children.
Although things are opening back up again, it doesn’t mean everyone is suddenly going to feel okay. There will be some time needed to emotionally recover as we try to make sense of what has happened. It might feel a bit like Humpty Dumpty as you and others work to pick up the pieces and put ourselves back together again. Returning to in-person activities might feel really scary to some people, and exciting or a relief to others. This is true for both adults and for children.
During this time of transition, it is especially important that we take extra good care of ourselves. But what does “self-care” mean exactly? It means making time to do the things you enjoy and that nourish your body, mind, and spirit. This can be time spent alone or it can be social time. But carving out some time every day, even if it is just 5 or 10 minutes, can make a big difference to your mental health.
Here are some ideas for how to start improving your self-care:
Self-compassion: Noticing when you are being hard on yourself and practicing kind and compassionate self-talk. (Imagine what you would say to a friend when they are having a difficult time and practicing saying that to yourself.)
Connecting with your loved ones: Spending quality fun time outside of work and school to connect and recharge. I recommend unplugging during certain times or for certain activities (eg., eating dinner, going to the park).
- Deep breathing (eg., inhale for 3, exhale for 6)
- Exercise (walking, running, weights, etc.)
- Guided visualization
- Listening to music
- Spending time in nature
I often tell my clients that when life gets stressful, that is the time to really ramp up your self-care. Even when you feel like you just don’t have time for anything else, remember that even just a few minutes a day of nourishing self-care can make a world of a difference!
If you are interested in starting therapy so you can learn more about self-care and begin improving your relationship with yourself and others , please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.