6 ways to positively address your mental health during a time of crisis
Written for Daily Hive by Paul Marlow, owner of Never Alone.
The way of life that we saw happening in futuristic thrillers that popped up on Netflix after watching Sharknado for the third time is happening to us.
At this time, nearly two million people have lost their jobs, while the majority of those who do still have them work from home. And it looks like giving hugs, high fives, and handshakes will be shunned greetings in the future.
At first, that was fine. It started as a drunken staycation, filled with humourous attempts at group Zoom chats and seeing how many rolls of toilet paper one person could carry to the checkout till. The daily routine you once knew of working out, eating healthy foods, and waking up at a regular time took the back seat.
You’d get back to those staples once this was all over in a few weeks, right?
We are all finding it’s not as easy as we thought. Mentally you can’t piece it together to work through your day as you once did.
I have had my life disrupted before, just like this. I lost my dad to cancer, which threw me down a mental black hole. No part of my day ran with the ease it once did. I wallowed in my sorrow until I had enough, and then started the slow journey of piecing together what a new day would look like if I were to be successful again.
These are the six steps I came to lean on.
Turn your alarm clock on
Getting back in control of your day starts with taking control of when you wake up. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be the same ungodly hour that you needed to wake up to beat morning rush hour traffic.
However, you need to feel in charge again, and choosing the exact moment you wake up is the first win in a world where we feel like losses are coming at us in abundance.
Whatever time you choose to wake, make it a routine from Monday through Friday.
Improved morning routine
Creating a specific morning routine after my dad died gave me the first sense of normalcy in a world that felt like an atom bomb had blown away any rhyme or reason I had known before.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when creating your morning routine:
- Do NOT open your phone or laptop until your routine is finished
- Create a 30 to 60-minute routine
- Start your routine off with the most straightforward win, like making your bed
- Don’t get down if the full routine is not completed: tomorrow is always a new day
Time to work
You have now set a positive tone for the day by completing your morning routine. It has shown you that you can cross off goals for the day on the to-do list. Plus, it has eased your body and brain into the craziness that is the world around us.
Now that you’re warmed up, go ahead and attack the meat of your workday.
Give yourself three to four hours of work.
With all that is going on, it can be a tall order to put in a full eight-hour workday always. So start small and work up from there as this new lifestyle becomes more comfortable.
30-60 minutes of exercise
Having your home turn into a work/living situation will hastily have you getting cabin fever. You need to make a conscious effort to get a breath of fresh air and also the blood flowing.
Some of us are lucky at this time to have a yard or live in a less densely populated area. If this is you, take advantage of your opportunity to get outside to get your workout in.
Four ways to exercise outside during COVID-19:
- Go for a long walk
- Go for a bike ride
- Pushups and lunges
- Sprint up empty hills
Getting regular exercise will be a significant mental health bump in the right direction.
If your living in a highrise or more densely populated location, pull out your phone, set up a tripod, and follow along to these upbeat classes put on by Vancouver’s top gyms.
Attack that “I don’t have time for it” project
Now that you have done a good chunk of work and got your endorphins pumping for the day, its time to allow yourself some ‘me time.’
You know those projects you’ve always dreamt about doing, yet couldn’t find the time because life was so busy? Well, I am going to break it to you right now, we ALL have more time than we can find to fill it.
There are a couple of reasons why working on a project will hell help your mental health. One being, when done, you can step back and applaud yourself for doing something positive.
Secondly, it falls in line with the same reason as completing your morning routine. Most likely, you didn’t get the passion project done in the past, not because you didn’t have time. But instead, there were some road bumps in its completion that you were intimidated to tackle.
Show yourself that you can achieve anything you set your mind to and overcome these barriers.
Five o’clock has arrived, and just like when the world was normal, it’s now time to put away your work. It is not the easiest thing to do when your environments blend into one, so you have to take some specific actions to achieve this.
The ability to stop working will benefit you for the long term, decreasing the chance of burnout as the weeks turn into months of this new routine.
Try adding one of these to make the most of your evenings:
- Start cooking your dinners from scratch
- Work on a jigsaw puzzle
- Expand your music library
- Dive into a novel series
Try not to make a routine of binge-watching Tiger King and drinking a handful of cocktails.
To finish the day, give yourself a chance to start tomorrow off on the right foot. Giving yourself a win in the morning will make the rest of the day more manageable, so focus on getting to bed at a reasonable time. Aim for eight hours of sleep.
Remember, you’re not in this by yourself. There are millions, if not billions, of people out there struggling just like you.
Take this new daily routine and implement it slowly as the next few weeks pass by. Once one of the steps gets comfortable, then look for the next step to add.
And remember, having one down day is not a fail. You are only human, and tomorrow is a new day.