Dr. Lauren Latella is our resident wellness expert and member of the Suitably Crew. Here she is wearing Suitably's Keynote Dress.
Many of us have now switched to working from home which can pose a number of challenges for your personal life. The line between work and personal life has become blurred, which is why it’s important to set appropriate work boundaries that still allow you to stay productive during working hours.
Outside of working hours, you may be experiencing feelings of restlessness, anxiety, sadness, or isolation. Focusing on your mental health is something that should not be overlooked. It’s imperative to do things for yourself that keep you feeling happy and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a psychologist at the Child Mind Institute working with young adults struggling with a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, I’d like to share with you a few scientifically proven tips to help you stay positive during such a uncertain and unprecedented time.
1. Experience social connectedness while social distancing
Take advantage of technology and set up video calls with your friends and family. When your work from home day ends, schedule time to eat dinner or share a drink with your friend using a group video chat. Get creative! Schedule a work or friend happy hour and have everyone fix their favorite drink and chat about non-work related topics. If you start to experience FOMO, remind yourself, that everyone is practicing social distancing. Make sure you are talking to your support system about how you are feeling about everything. If you feel as though you need additional support, reach out to a mental health professional or hotline. Remember, you do not have to go through this alone.
Often time, crises offer people the opportunity to better themselves by engaging in altruistic activities. By following the CDC recommendations to take care of yourself and self-isolate if you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, you are contributing to flattening the curve and protecting the most vulnerable. Reach out and contact family members who you have not connected with recently or older individuals in your neighborhood and ask how they are doing or if they need help with any deliveries or errands. In addition to caring for the ederly, there are countless ways to contribute. Be extra kind to delivery people or cashiers at grocery stores and pharmacies. Look for opportunities to donate to food banks or small, local businesses. Offer your time to tutor young students and contribute to their education. Every big, or small, contribution helps.
Exercise is key to combating the blues associated with feelings of isolation and restriction. When you are feeling down, your action urge is to isolate and withdrawal; however, by maintaining as much activity as possible, you will enhance your endurance, increase your overall energy levels, and release positive endorphins in your body. If going outside is not within your ability, search for workout videos online. There are hundreds of workouts that you can do using your own body weight. Make this a social event and engage in an online workout while video streaming with one of your friends.
4. Practice mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is also key to staying positive during this stressful time. Remind yourself that it is completely normal and valid to be experiencing a range of emotions (frustration, anxiety, sadness, disappointment, etc.). Your emotions are going to rise and fall during the next few weeks. Practice observing and describing your emotional wave. Tune in to your body and notice how the intensity of your emotion increases and decreases. Practice self-compassion and do not judge yourself for feeling a certain way. You are ALLOWED to be feeling what you are feeling right now and your emotional experience is OKAY!
5. Check the facts
Oftentimes, people think their emotional experiences are facts (i.e., “I feel scared; therefore, this situation is very dangerous;” “I heard this from a peer; therefore, it must be true”). Make sure you are responding to the facts of the situation. Receiving news from social media streams can be informative; but, they may slightly alter the reality of the situation. Check the facts and look for updates through credible sources such as the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
6. Practice Radical Acceptance
These unprecedented times are incredibly challenging due to the unknown nature of COVID-19 and various limitations and restrictions placed on your daily lives that are outside of your control. Practice radical acceptance by turning your mind to be willing to accept the reality of the situation. You can do this by completely and totally accepting the situation for what it is as well as acknowledging your emotional experience rather than pushing it away. The key is to remember that radical acceptance does not mean that you AGREE with the situation.
7. Build Mastery
Challenge yourself to do one thing each day that brings you a sense of accomplishment. This can be as small as cleaning out one of your drawers or engaging in a hobby or talent that you have not been able to focus on. Is there a new hobby that you have wanted to take up? If so, set a goal for yourself that is specific and attainable (i.e., run for 15 minutes a day). By accomplishing one task a day, you not only build a sense of mastery, which in turn increases positivity, but you also build motivation to continue to work toward a larger, longer term goal. Working toward building mastery buffers your vulnerability to experiencing distressing emotions.
Lauren Latella, PhD, is an associate psychologist at the Child Mind Institute working with children, adolescents, and young adults struggling with a variety of mental health issues including anxiety and depression. For more information about mental health and for additional tools and strategies for regulating your emotions, visit childmind.org.
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