Caring for your mental health is always a priority, and during times of anxiety (like, oh, a global pandemic), it can become even more important. Carl Jylland-Halverson, the director for the University of Saint Francis’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, gives tips beyond “eat healthy and exercise” to assure we’re caring for ourselves.
Create a routine
Eating at the same time daily and a keeping a consistent sleep schedule are two ways to provide some normalcy.
“Even though you have the luxury of staying up to all hours, try to avoid this,” Jylland-Halverson said. “Maintaining your regular sleep schedule helps with health, energy and emotional regulation.”
Connect with family and friends
Talk from a safe distance, and use remote options to keep in touch. Write letters—the kind that need stamps and the post office. These connections help not only our own mental health, but others’, too, by helping us all feel less isolated.
St. Francis of Assis is the patron saint of Jylland-Halverson’s university. St. Francis worked with the poor and with lepers, and he was a peacekeeper, a role he could play because he made it a priority to spend quiet time with God.
“Whatever your faith background, finding time to contemplate or meditate helps in the moment, but also helps the remaining moments of the day be manageable,” Jylland-Halverson said.
Pay attention to your senses
Don’t just go through the motions of eating or listening or moving in the world—really pay attention to the taste of that cucumber or the smell of that freshly mown grass. Paying attention to the senses can increase our gratefulness.
“We cannot control the pandemic,” he said, “but you can be thankful for the part of the world we live in.”
Ask for help
If you find yourself becoming depressed, anxious or angry, talk to someone. If these feelings are having an impact on how well you function or sleep, if you’re irritable for no reason or wondering “What’s the use?” talk to someone.
“It is not weakness to talk to a professional,” Jylland-Halverson said, “and being depressed in the face of a global pandemic would be considered an appropriate response.”
There’s a lot of pressure right now to finish a project, learn a new skill, take up a new hobby. And if you do any of these things, that’s great.
“However, the task of a disaster is to get through it,” Jylland-Halverson said. “So if you have not cleaned your house from top to bottom or learned a second language or taken up clog dancing, that is OK.”