More than drastically changing how people live their lives, the COVID-19 pandemic has also considerably affected the mental health of many individuals. A recent study conducted by KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation)—a nonprofit group focusing on significant health issues in the United States—revealed that 40 percent of the adults in the country reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the course of this health crisis.
This result is not surprising, given that the “new normal” poses a unique set of challenges that can leave people feeling powerless and out of control.
That said, practicing self-care should be on the top of your list now more than ever. Keep in mind that self-care is not being selfish but a way to protect and ensure your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
After all, when you care for your own health—all aspects of it—you become more resilient and more capable of facing whatever difficulties will come your way. Don’t know how or where to start? Here are several self-care tips to help you successfully navigate these anxiety-ridden times.
Continue Observing Established Health and Safety Protocols
Regardless of your vaccination status, you must continue observing personal safety practices, such as wearing a face mask, observing physical distancing, and practicing proper hand hygiene to minimize the risk of exposure and spread of the COVID-19 virus.
It is worth noting that you can still carry the virus and spread it to others even if you are fully vaccinated. Do not be complacent, and continue to find ways to protect yourself better.
That said, you may want to consider wearing antimicrobial masks or even ordinary cloth masks in settings that are not considered high-risk areas. These include outdoors spaces and well-ventilated indoor environments.
Fabric masks are often enough for everyday use while also being environment-friendly because they can be washed and don’t have to be disposed of immediately after use. They also help preserve the supply of medical-grade face masks and respirators for those who need them the most—namely people who are working in medical settings.
Be Sure to Get Sufficient Sleep
If you want to cope better during these highly stressful times, you should never take sleep for granted. Getting sufficient quality sleep every night is necessary to boost your immunity, enabling your body to fight off infectious agents such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. A regular healthy slumber is also essential for improving the efficacy of vaccines, lowering stress, and increasing energy levels. All of which are essential in protecting your health and overall well-being.
If you have trouble sleeping, you may want to observe a bedtime routine to help you wind down and fall asleep easily. Taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, or practicing breathing exercises are just some of the things you can do. You may also want to maintain a consistent sleep schedule to condition your mind and body to feel sleepy at a specific time.
Indulge in Forest Bathing
As you may have experienced, spending most of your time indoors can take a toll on your health. You feel lethargic, anxious, stressed, and irritable, among others. To counter the adverse physical and mental health impact of reduced social activity and being cooped up at home, you should add forest bathing to your self-care routine.
The modern concept of forest bathing or taking walks in forests started in the 1980s in Japan. This practice provides multiple health benefits, from reduced blood pressure and stress levels to improved concentration and memory and better immunity.
One study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine journal also revealed the effectiveness of forest bathing in improving mental health, especially among people with depressive tendencies.
You do not necessarily need to spend time in forests to take a forest bath. It could be as simple as walking in a park, garden, or a similar environment. The key is to connect with the natural world. Use all your senses to savor all the remarkable things nature has to offer. Be sure to leave your devices at home and to be fully present as you walk where your body takes you.
Tidy Up Your Home
Yes, keeping your living area tidy is a crucial part of self-care. You may not realize it, but the clutter and mess in your home add to your stress and anxiety. Your brain also becomes less effective in processing information because it is easily distracted by too much stuff.
However, when you start organizing and putting all your belongings in their proper places, the process gives you a renewed sense of control over your surroundings. The pandemic may cause uncertainties in your life, but you get to be in charge inside your own home. Ultimately, you feel empowered and in a better mood as you go through and finish decluttering.
Talk It Out
It is perfectly alright to admit you feel stressed and overwhelmed, especially with what is happening in the world. Keeping everything bottled up inside and denying that you are struggling can only put a strain on your health. That said, you may want to call a trusted friend or schedule an appointment with a professional counselor via telehealth so you can talk things out.
The mere act of talking about your problems and sharing unpleasant emotions can provide considerable relief from stress, loneliness, and a sense of isolation. Talking can be therapeutic, and it is also an effective way to gain a better perspective in life.
The self-care tips mentioned above are just some of the ways you can protect your physical, mental, and psychological health, as well as your overall well-being, during a global health crisis. Be sure to practice them and to continue finding other ways to make you feel more relaxed and grounded.
Remember that they don’t have to be anything earth-shattering. Even reserving an hour or two doing something that you enjoy can help you fight stress and anxiety. Discover what works for you, and never be ashamed to ask for help.