Mental Heath Wellness Tips
Now, more than ever, we need to take care of ourselves. Ashley Smith, CRMS Director of Counseling is sharing some tips to help you and your family through this uncertain time.
1. Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for school as well as self-care. Write out your plans for the next day before bed.
2. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Don’t hang out in your PJ’s all day.
3. Get out at least once a day for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned about contact, try first thing in the morning or later in the evening. Get your heart rate elevated for at least 30 minutes which is good for your mood and energy.
4. Reach out to others everyday. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support. We are all in this together and need human connection. We are practicing physical distancing, but can still be social. Maybe host a watch party or a virtual movie night. What other things could you do?
5. Stay hydrated and eat well. Stress and eating often don’t mix well and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods (eat a rainbow of food). Learn how to cook something new.
6. Develop a self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure). An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation.
7. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.
8. Find your own retreat space. It is important that people think through their own separate space for schoolwork and for relaxation. Make sure your workstation is comfortable and you are in a relaxed position. Consider a
stand- up workstation. Limit your distractions too.
9. Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance. We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self-acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.
10. Limit social media and COVID conversation. One can find tons of information on this to consume and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume.
11. Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.
12. Help others. Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.
13. Find something you can control and control the heck out of it. In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, create a playlist. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.
14. Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read a book for pleasure, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.
15. Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements. Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc.) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.
16. Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all.
17. Find lightness and humor in each day. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.
18. Reach out for help—your school is there for you. CRMS is available to you, even at a distance. There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.
19. “Chunk” your time at home, take it moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now. Engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable. Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a time and move through stress in pieces.
20. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this, it will never end. It is unsettling to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Just remember, we will return to feeing free, safe, busy, and connected in the months ahead.
21. Find the lesson. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can effect the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?
*Just remember, anxiety is a product of the unknown and feeling out of control. There are many unknowns right now, but…these items listed above are things you can control. Let’s not fixate on what we can’t control. It is normal to feel abnormal in a situation that is not normal! We are all in this together and will get through this together.*