As mental health professionals, we’ve had many people ask us lately if what they are feeling is “normal.” In uncertain times, “normal” looks different. The collective world is in the midst of redefining our “new normal.” And to be honest, we’ve never been a fan of the word anyway! You may be feeling scared, lonely, confused, anxious, sad or even grateful and relieved to have some extra time at home with loved ones. To top it off, you may be feeling all these emotions consecutively or all at once.
In times of uncertainty, there are some steps in helping keep ourselves emotionally and mentally well. Life may be feeling more restrictive lately; however, there are plenty of ways to boost your well-being.
Many of us may be isolated in our homes, or unable to see our loved ones as often as we’d like. Humans thrive on connection, and it’s important that we find ways to connect from afar. The World Health Organization recently highlighted that “social distancing” is a misleading term. They’ve instead recommended using the term “physical distancing” to highlight the importance of maintaining connections with others. We’ve seen individuals get creative in the ways they are connecting virtually: coffee check-ins over video chat, playing boardgames online and even karaoke over different streaming platforms. It’s crucial that we continue to connect with others during this time as isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, sadness, and depression which, if left unchecked, may lead to more significant issues down the road.
A deeper understanding of ourselves and our emotional experience can guide us in how we continue feeling well during this time. If you are aware of your emotional needs, you are better able to identify how to help yourself or those around you. This is a great time to take up meditation. There are phenomenal apps for your smartphone that can provide you with meditation to build self-awareness during this time (e.g. Headspace, Calm app, Mindful Minutes for associates). Healthe at Cerner is providing opportunities for associates to develop these insights and find time to connect with one other virtually around topics like loneliness, self-compassion, grief and more. As you become attuned to how you’re feeling, you may find that you’re feeling lonely and need more connection. You may find that you’re feeling tense and overwhelmed and need to find ways to relax and de-stress.
- Practice Gratitude
With extra time at home, many of us may be spending more time on social media or watching the news. Often, placing our focus on these things for extended periods of time can cause us to feel overwhelmed by the negativity in our lives. Spend some time each day practicing gratitude. Make a list each morning or night of a few things you’re grateful for. Send a letter in the mail to the people whom you feel have added something positive in your life. Placing your attention on the “good” can help to decrease the intensity of our negative emotions.
- Maintain Healthy Habits
Sleep, diet, and exercise are three crucial elements to maintaining both physical and mental well-being. Proper sleep hygiene improves our mood and our overall ability to regulate our emotions. You may be having trouble sleeping lately due to increased anxiety or a more sedentary day-to-day routine. Keeping up with physical exercise may help you in attaining better sleep and boosting your mood overall. There are many free online work outs to try, or associates can check out Well-Being Connect for fitness classes and on-demand options. Physical activity isn’t just limited to a formal workout—taking a walk around the block or in your backyard can make a difference too. Research has found that just 10 minutes outside each day helps to improve our mood. Be mindful of eating a balanced diet—stress and anxiety can increase feelings of hunger which may lead to overeating. During uncertain times, we often gravitate towards our comfort foods that might not be the healthiest options. Find ways to keep balance in your diet—throw in extra veggies on the side or make sure your snacks are high in nutrients.
- Seek Professional Help
There are many ways in which you can bolster your mental well-being; however, there are times where it may be beneficial to reach out to a professional. If you are having feelings of depression or anxiety that are significantly impacting your daily life and persist for longer than two weeks, it may be time to talk to a provider about how you’re feeling. My Life Resources has robust offerings for virtual therapy with mental health professionals. All Cerner associates and their dependent family members have access to this benefit at no cost.
While these times are ambiguous, and sometimes scary, remember that we are not alone. We may be physically distant but through this experience we are finding humanity and solidarity throughout the world. Continue to love and support one another in all the ways you can.
Here are some additional resources you may find helpful in maintaining your well-being through education, engagement, and connection.
- Book Recommendations
- The Power of Vulnerability – Brene Brown
- Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers – Robert Sopalsky
- Mind Over Mood – Dennis Greenberger
- 10 Percent Happier
- Science of Happiness
- Unlocking Us
- TED Talks Daily
- 6 Ways To Connect with Nature During COVID
- 8 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety
- Physical – Not Social – Distancing
- The Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief
- 8 Tips For Making Work From Home Work For You
- Mequilibrium: How to Stay Connected During Social Distancing
- Open Online Courses from Ivy League Schools