2020 has been A LOT, n’est-ce pas? Between the pandemic and all the lifestyle changes it’s forced upon us, and the unshackling/awakening the world has been experiencing (about damn time too!), stress, anxiety, angst and depression are on a high. It all just gets so heavy sometimes . . . I know I’ve had my moments. So it’s become one of my personal priorities to boost my mental health during this time, and I’d like to share some simple ways I’ve been getting through all this chaos and uncertainty.
“Pray over it. Pray on it. Pray through it.” Can I get an Amin? Prayer changes things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming every prayer gets answered . . . I’m just saying, the devotion of prayer and speaking to God in earnest always has a calming effect and always helps us cope better in stressful situations. Plus it gives us something to hold on to. To not feel hopeless. And that in itself, is power to get us through anything. So I always pray and always encourage people to pray – in good times and in bad. Prayers don’t have to be complicated or ritualistic either, just a moment with Him. It can be listening to some Qur’an or gospel, using prayer beads or just having a heart-to-heart with Him. Bolsters us.
While prayer – which is a form of meditation – focuses on addressing and acknowledging situations, I love meditation for the opposite effect: removing myself from those things. I recently took up meditation again. I’ve been doing Focused Meditation around various things like my breathing or specific sounds (YouTube has a great selection) and it has been eye opening. Literally! Third Eye opening! Or so I think. We shall see. Pun intended. This is why I need focused meditation, I tend to get distracted a lot. So back to that . . . It’s been a great way to get out of my thoughts and feelings and ground me in something else. I basically just get into the sitting meditation position/asana on the rug (must get Yoga mat!) and lose myself in the session for a little while each day. Meditation is refreshing, helps build patience and tolerance, and lowers anxiety and negative feelings like stress. Sometimes, we just need to stop and breathe! Definitely worth the try. I hope to get back into Transcendental Meditation a-la Deepak Chopra in about a month or so. I had success following his and Oprah’s guided meditation program last year. Definitely check it out.
*RuPaul voice* “Reading is what?”
And it’s no coincidence that “fundamental” has both “fun” and “mental” in it. It’s such a great activity with so many benefits for our minds and mental wellness. Especially when we are so confined – reading can transport us literally anywhere in any perceived or imagined universe/dimension/era. No bookings needed – just books! Reading can open up our minds, expand our vocabularies, teach us new skills and give us a much needed break from our own realities. It also lowers stress levels, fires up our creativity and helps us get better sleep. There are no downsides! And they cover every subject and come in so many different formats nowadays that make it so convenient for us. So it can be a self-help or bio title in physical form (Half Priced Books and Rafu Books deliver), and away from books – a comic strip in the dailies or listicles online – whatever you like! I’m a fantasy and fiction kinda gal myself; must be the Pisces in me.
I’ve always been into mood and mental manipulation by way of olfaction. It’s no secret the power that scents have over us mere mortals. So why not use that to our advantage? When I’m feeling down I throw on my Chanel Chance because it excites me and makes me feel like anything is possible! When I need “white noise” for the nose (but really, to relax), I light a Vanilla scented candle. even just the smell of a cup of coffee comforts me. I take in that shift that the fragrance inspires. I live in it. Center myself in it. Aaaaaaah. Just try it. Nice, no? And as *actual* Aromatherapy technically requires the use of natural plant extracts, pick out a couple of essential oils (depending on what effect you desire) and use a diffuser/humidifier/burner if you can. I recently got one after ages of debating whether to do it or not and I have quite enjoyed using it. It definitely soothes my restlessness and helps to relieve my mental fatigue after a long day. I like to alternate between Eucalyptus and Sweet Orange for this. Aromatherapy also helps the quality of sleep, reduces headaches and tends to lower stress and anxiety levels. And some essential oils have been known to help clear the chest or coughs and with the pandemic and cold season upon us now, that is quite handy.
I love to write almost as much as I love to read. I find it to be another channel to enhance my mental health, not necessarily by taking something in, but rather, by getting something out. We can’t all have Dumbledore’s Pensive, unfortunately, but we can write (ok, then! Voice notes too if you must!). Writing/journaling helps us offload our minds and can enable us to sort through our thoughts and feelings in a productive way that we can refer to and grow from. Like with reading, journaling can take many forms from “Dear Diary . . .” styles to the trendy bullet journaling to drawing/painting/colouring (the way Kamal Kaur does it in her gorgeous daily quarantine posts) to blogging to video diaries . . . the list is endless. Hell, write a story! Just get out of your head or get your feelings somewhere you can “see” them and deal with them. I like to use structured journals with quirky questions for interesting entries and plain old notebooks where I write letters to myself. Makes for incredible reads later on and help me see how far I have come. It’s so therapeutic.
Y’all know I’m always singing about this one so I won’t get into it too much. With confinement, WFH, homeschooling etc we tend to get lost in the madness. And that takes a huge toll on us, mentally. It is absolutely important to have some “me-time” or self care. A pocket of uninterrupted time not to worry about anything or anyone but to just indulge in a little TLC for us, by us. Whatever it takes to hit the spot – and the internal reset button. Personalize it to what you love to indulge in and pamper yourself with. For me, it’s a face mask and changing my my nail polish. Honestly, it can even be a mid-day nap. Treat yourself. Remind yourself to rest and relax. You deserve it.
It’s incredible how stationary life can get during this time. WFH and homeschooling and other reasons for confinement/isolation = inactive lifestyle (but oh so busy). It’s crazy! And very unhealthy. A sluggish or unfit body affects health, performance and self-esteem, and gives us one more thing to worry about. Wellness of the mind requires wellness of the body too. I’ve been feeling a lot better this week after going out for walks. Getting outside, even for a little bit, helps us feel free, inspired, positive and the fresh air is great for the body and the mind. Being active/exercising is great for mental health as it puts us in a good mood. It also just breaks the monotony and cabin fever. So take a walk or run a few KMs if that’s your speed. Get some good ol’ vitamin D. Move your body and free your mind. If outside is not an option for you, there are plenty of activities you can get into at home like dancing, yoga, other workouts (so many online).
WATCH/LISTEN TO SOMETHING
Music, movies, TV shows, online tours etc are some of the unsung heroes during this time in isolation/confinement. The news and real life can get very serious and disheartening and distractions are needed to balance things out. It doesn’t even have to be something involving. Personally, when I need to silence my mind I turn to favourite shows because there’s a comforting familiarity there that makes me feel warm. When I need to release tension I watch reality TV and talk back at the cast! When I wanna get in my feelings (good or bad) music is the answer. These arts have healing in them in such simple ways . . .
I sound like a broken record when I say “look good, feel good” but it’s true. We can definitely feel good in sweats/bhatis/PJs, yes. But there’s an undeniable mood-lift when we throw on something cute. I’ve been making it a point to dress up a couple of times a week and there’s an instant improvement in my posture and attitude when I do so. Looking and feeling put-together makes us feel confident and act on that confidence. Plus, our shoes really do need to remember we are still alive and love them.
Being mindful of the head-space we’re in and in-tune with our emotions does a lot in helping us keep our sanity and hope during this time. We mustn’t neglect ourselves and our mental health. I know things are tough and sometimes even getting the energy to get out of bed seems Herculean, but don’t let yourself drown in it all. Talk to someone (feel free to hit me up if you need to), look after each other and know that better days are yet ahead.