Written by Holly Hankin, MT-BC and Chapter Operations & Development Manager

We’re facing some enormous challenges right now. We’re seeing unemployment, closures, shortages, you name it. For many people at this time, anxiety and fear can seem so monumental, so seemingly unsurpassable, that all other aspects of life tend to hide in the shadows. I want you to know that your feelings are valid, but I also want you to know that you have lots of things in your “toolbox” to help you move forward and become a stronger person as a result. That being said, here’s a list of 4 ways that you can improve mental health in the coming months:

1. Work Towards Goals.

When my clients are feeling down, sad, anxious, isolated, sad, etc., one of the first things I tell them is to start making some goals. This can be a great way to beat the inertia and get moving away from those overpowering emotions. While it’s difficult and seemingly impossible sometimes, it’s great to give yourself something to work towards, no matter how small. Here’s some tips for goal setting:

  • Make your goals something specific that you can measure or check off every day.
  • Make sure your goals are meaningful to you. If learning a new language isn’t something you genuinely care about, choose something else that would really make you happy. Goals that are meaningful are much easier to accomplish.
  • Be realistic and set attainable goals. Give yourself a break sometimes and know that sometimes, you won’t succeed. When that happens, keep going! Goal progress isn’t linear. Celebrate successes and don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Make sure your goal is something that you can accomplish while social distancing so you can start as soon as possible.
  • Give yourself a deadline. Once you get started, check back in. Did you give yourself too much time to complete something? Modify and adapt your goals as needed.
  • Don’t take on too many goals at once. This can be overwhelming!

2. Maintain Connections and Relationships.

As you’ve probably noticed over the past few weeks, maintaining social connections can be difficult when you’re staying at home. This may be anxiety-provoking. However, remember the following:

  • Your feelings are valid. This is an extremely stressful and anxiety-ridden time. Do not be ashamed of your feelings.
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood. Notice everyone else walking around; They’re all living this shared experience and you are not alone! Wave hello and greet neighbors from a distance and introduce yourself. Know who is around you and going through this with you.
  • Creating a check-in schedule to call certain people (almost like scheduling classes) could be a good idea. Give them a call and see if they’d like to schedule a time each day/week/ every other week. Use face-to-face interfaces, like Zoom or Skype, if possible.
  • Connect with other students, faculty, or staff members virtually in your online learning environment. Take part in your club meetings online or utilize discussion board features to make a new friend. Maybe you’ll help another student feel better about their current situation by doing so!
  • Think of ways that you can virtually spend time together. Use apps like Skype, Houseparty, Zoom, etc. to play music, games, share ideas and experiences, and just chat.
  • Consider joining or starting a support group. This could be a great way to get things off your chest.

3. Prioritize Your Health.

Your health is more important than ever right now! Make sure you’re taking care of yourself before taking care of other people or tasks. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

  • Normalize your sleep schedule and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
  • Practice good daily hygiene, including increased hand washing.
  • Exercise indoors and outdoors, keeping physical distance from others.
  • If it’s something that works for you, try practicing some mindfulness and meditation techniques. Check out some free classes on Youtube. Here’s one to get you started.
  • Utilize Telehealth platforms for mental health or medical health purposes when appropriate.
  • Optimize your news intake for anxiety relief.

4. Reframe Negative Thoughts.

Thoughts are actually behaviors that you can work to change. Actively make an effort to adapt how you think of things that make you anxious, and after a while, it will start to come naturally.

  • “I’m stuck at home.”
    • “I get to be safe in my home and spend time with my family.”
  • “Everything is shutting down; I’m panicking.”
    • “The most important places, like hospitals, grocery stores, and pharmacies, are going to stay open.”
  • “There is too much uncertainty right now.”
    • “While I can’t control my situation right now, I can control my actions. I can call loved ones, work on my breathing, get enough sleep and eat healthy foods, and do activities that I love doing at home.”