As many of us are increasingly isolated from others and separated from the world outside of our apartments or homes due to the Coronoa Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, our mental health may suffer. Many are facing growing worry, stress, sadness, and loneliness all due to fears of becoming ill or a loved one becoming ill as well as due to increased isolation, lack of human contact, minimal sunlight or outside exposure, reduced exercise, and financial/economic concerns. During this time, many individuals may be increasingly struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders (or binge eating and overeating), or substance abuse (especially as alcohol and liquor stores are deemed essential business) as well as increased relational issues such as increased family conflict, marital problems or domestic violence. Although our current circumstances may be challenging and unwanted, this time can also serve as an opportune time to focus on our mental health and well-being through increased self-care and mental hygiene.
Below are some tips to improve your mental health from the comfort of your own home, as well as the science behind why these mental health tips work.
- There are many different forms of meditation, so you will have to find what works for you. They may range from simply deep breathing, meditating on a mantra, guided mediation, in addition to various others. All meditations have one common element – to quiet the mind. There are many benefits of meditation such as reducing anxiety, improving our immune system, improving concentration, increasing self-awareness, lowering blood pressure, increasing happiness and wellbeing, reducing impulsivity, managing stress, and reaching an overall higher state of consciousness, among other mental health and physical health benefits. The beauty of meditation is that it is something you can do from anywhere you are without anything.
- Practice Gratitude. Another tool that can be utilized anywhere without any objects is manifesting gratitude. Studies have shown that those who practice gratitude regularly have an improved mood compared to those who don’t. Being grateful can help to manage stress and aid to relieve mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and is also an effective tool for addiction recovery. Furthermore, gratitude has been found to improve energy, happiness, decision making, relationships, resilience, sleep, empathy, longevity and much more. Even during these trying times of the Covid-19 pandemic, do your best to see the silver lining. Perhaps you can be grateful for more time spent with loved ones, not wearing a suit and tie every day, or less time to commute to/from work may mean more time to sleep in or relax. Whatever it is, there is always something to be grateful for.
- Quarantine is not an excuse to not exercise. There are many great at-home workout routines you can do right in your own living room, even if it is as simple as squats, jumping jacks, push-ups, crunches and other basics. There are many other exercises and routines that you can do for free with no equipment via mobile apps or YouTube videos. Many individuals are also able to still get outside and enjoy a nice walk, bike ride, or jog. Whatever you are able to do to get your blood circulating and heart pumping. While most people correlate exercise with their physical appearance (predominantly losing fat or building muscle), exercise also has incredible benefits for mental health as well. While most are aware of the “feel good” high that comes from releasing endorphins, the mental health benefits go well beyond just feeling good after a workout. Regular exercise can lead to a sustained improvement in mood and a reduction of mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, and can also help to relieve stress, manage anger, promote sleep, improve cognitive functioning, fill up idle time, provide structure and discipline, and increase self-esteem, among other benefits.
- Eat Well. While most people think of food in terms of physical health, studies have shown that nutrition plays a critical role in mental health as well. A healthy mind and body are essential elements in coping with a substance use addiction or mental health issue (especially depression, anxiety and stress). The incorporation of certain foods into your diet such as ones that are rich of micronutrients and the elimination certain foods such as ones that are high in fat, salt and sugar can significantly improve one’s mental health. For example, deficiencies in certain vitamins such as B and C have led to lower serotonin and dopamine production which results in lower mood. Conversely, eating a diet rich in such vitamins has shown to result in reduced symptoms of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Cooking a healthy meal can also be made into a family activity and then enjoyed with the family around the dining room table. It is a great way to connect and bond.
- Sleep is an especially important and often underutilized component of brain functioning. It is very common to see individuals getting 4 to 6 hours of sleep, which is far less than ideal. Adults should be sleeping a minimum of 7 hours per night, preferably 8 or 9 hours. There is a link between sleep and mood. When individuals under-sleep, especially consistently over time, this can lead to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Furthermore, it leads to slower cognitive functioning, trouble focusing, sluggish strategic thinking, reduced speed of processing, as well as reduced overall productivity. Sleep deprivation and insomnia are common in individuals who are diagnosed with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some tips to help get a restful night’s sleep include, but are not limited to, reducing caffeine consumption, stopping work at a designated time at least a couple of hours before bed, eliminating alcohol, staying away from technology prior to bed, reading a book, preparing for the next day, having a comfortable room temperature, and sticking to a regular sleep/wake schedule.
- Have a routine. Humans thrive on structure. While many of us resist it, having a schedule in place can help reduce stress and aid in coping with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and addiction among other issues. When you have a routine there is less time to worry about other things, and more time to focus on you. Structure eliminates unwanted and unneeded obtrusive thoughts about your day. During this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, while you are working from home, structure is needed more than ever. A schedule will help you to have a set and structured plan for the day - waking up and going to bed, eating when you would usually eat, working and business-related tasks, spending time with loved ones, etc. Additionally, get organized - physical clutter around you can lead to mental clutter within you.
- Seek out support. We all need human interaction. Hopefully you can find support face-to-face within your own home from loved ones. For those who cannot, seek out support from family or friends via phone, Zoom, FaceTime, etc. Furthermore, if you are struggling to manage stress or worry day-to-day, and especially if you are struggling with a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety or an addiction such as to drugs or alcohol, please seek out professional help.
Therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists are still available to perform services virtually via video technology (teletherapy). Therapists can help you manage emotions, deal with difficult situations, cope with stressors, mend relationships, set boundaries with toxic individuals, provide education, techniques and tools to cope with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and provide behavioral support to reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors including, but not limited to, overeating or binge eating, drinking alcohol, using drugs, and other such unwanted behaviors. To find a provider, simply do an online search by searching for a licensed therapist near me or be more specific such as by searching for a marriage and family therapist near me or Manhattan addiction therapy. Be sure to do adequate research and ask for a phone consultation to be sure that you find a therapist who is a good fit for you and specializes in the issues you are having trouble with.
A bonus tip: continue to practice these healthy habits during your post-Covid-19 life.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health issue or addiction related issue, our firm Family Addiction Specialist specializes in helping individuals with depression, anxiety, family conflict and marital problems, and addiction recovery including to alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, gaming, technology, food, gambling and other such addictive behaviors. Our team of licensed mental health counselors and therapists and psychiatrist will help guide and support you during this time via teletherapy. We specialize in providing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, family systems theory, and holistic therapy placing special emphasis on mindfulness, nutrition and fitness. We provide recovery coaching and recovery companionship for a more “hands on” approach. For those struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, we are also able to provide substance abuse screening virtually through breathalyzer, as well as through urine monitoring or mouth swab monitoring via pick up directly from your doorstep. Don’t allow Covid-19 to be an excuse to procrastinate or delay help for your mental health issues or substance abuse and addiction related issues.
For more information or to inquire about our private concierge therapy services and/or our teletherapy (online therapy/virtual therapy) please contact our undisclosed therapy office location in the Upper East Side of NYC today at (929) 220-2912.
Lin Sternlicht & Aaron Sternlicht