May is National Mental Health Month and we need to practice skills to improve/maintain our mental health now more than ever. Being in quarantine and social distancing has taken its toll on most of us; there are a few things we can do to help us to reduce negative effects during this stressful season.
Create a safe place in your home where you can go that represents emotional safety, a strong tower in your home. Let your children know that when you are in this space, they are only to contact you if ABSOLUTELY necessary. This should be a place free of screens so that you aren’t tempted to check social media or answer the phone; use your time in your safe place to reflect and listen to God. Scripture tells us “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run in and they are safe.” Allow this personal space to become a strong tower in your home, a place for emotional reset. Meditate on scripture. Practice deep breathing. Cry out to Jesus.
We all know the importance of exercise for physical well-being but it is as important for your emotional and mental well-being. When we are anxious, we tend to become sedentary and drink less water. I recommend that you get a minimum of 20 minutes a day to help you to work through negative emotions. When possible, exercise outdoors. Go for a walk and meditate on scripture or listen to uplifting music as you move. Be sure to drink the recommended amounts of water daily which also helps to improve mood. Drinking enough water keeps our brain from having to struggle against the effects of dehydration, allowing us to think more clearly than if we let ourselves get dehydrated. During this time of excessive news and heightened anxiety, we need to keep our minds sharp and guard against maladaptive cognitions, and staying hydrated aids this process.
Ask yourself, who do you need to see? Staying six feet apart has been dubbed “social distancing” but it is actually physically distancing. Social isolation feeds depression; we need to draw near (emotionally) to others. We need connections with others. Phone calls, Facetime, Zoom, and Google Hangouts are all medias that allow us to draw near while remaining physically separate. There is comfort from being seen, and we primarily regulate our negative emotions with the voices and faces of others. When we cry, we get a response from others that tends to bring comfort. When we laugh, others laugh with us. These rhythms of life help us develop and sustain ourselves.
Last week I connected with some of my closest friends on Zoom; time flew by as we laughed and shared with each other. I felt so uplifted and hopeful after our call. Seeing their faces and hearing their voices brought a sense of normalcy, and reminded me that we are all in this together. We are not alone.
Some other ways you can connect during this time is by sharing family meals, playing games (in person with your family or virtually with others), get dressed up, make up plays, story-telling, music making, and more. Some are engaging in digital dinners; they schedule a time to eat and set up a computer and share a meal virtually with friends and family so that they can talk and share as they break bread “together.”
These are just a few ideas for taking care of yourself during this time. Maybe choose one or two ideas listed and give it a try. I’d love to hear what you are doing to take care of your mental health. Feel free to share below.