Raise your hand if you’ve noticed the effects of this global pandemic and crisis on your mental health. I’ve found that these times call for even more intentional measures when it comes to maintaining my mental health and I want to share what works for me – so that you can also implement those practices.
Taking care of your mental health is vital and I really believe that we should all be proactive about it! But don’t confuse taking care of your mental health and trying to stay positive at all times even when you don’t feel like it. Your emotions are valid and we should allow ourselves to feel a whole spectrum of them. Mental health practices are there to help us process our emotions and keep us sane.
I have a lot of practices in mind, so I’ve separated this post into 2 parts: this one and – yup, you guessed it, part 2!
Part 1 addresses mental health foundations
I’m a huge fan of Maslow’s pyramid of needs and I want to use it in the first part of this post as a way to prioritise some of these practices and tie them up to those needs. So in this post, we will use it as a framework for our fundamental practices.
If you’ve never heard of Maslow’s pyramid or seen it before, the diagram is below. It is a hierarchical organization of our needs, with the very fundamental ones being at the bottom – so Physiological needs (e.g. water, food, rest, breathing, etc.) – followed by safety needs, belonging, self-esteem and so on.
Let’s get to the actionable part:
1. Address your physiological needs
Let’s start from the bottom up, first address any physiological needs you may have. If you feel like your nutritional needs aren’t met – and let’s be honest, it can be hard to motivate ourselves to eat healthy and wholesome in times like this, start there. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, adjust your routine accordingly.
Of course, this may be a luxury for some people right now. Do what you need to do to survive right now if things are really tough, but if you know that you can accommodate those needs, try to do that. You need to put your oxygen mask on to help others.
2. Stay safe
Once you’ve ticked off that layer, let’s go to the need for safety. This entails both physical safety and also a psychological sense of security. I really hope that you are not in physical danger, please do everything you can to stay safe! Coronavirus also threatens us from a physical perspective, so please follow all of the guidance from the World Health Organisation to minimise the risk of getting the disease or spreading it.
Once you are certain that you’re doing everything you can to ensure your physical safety, let’s move on to psychological safety. I don’t know about you, but this new reality and its consequences are giving me anxiety. Humans don’t like change or uncertainties, they feel dangerous, so we are definitely feeling psychologically unsafe.
I’ve been living under uncertainty for quite some time now – years before Covid has been discovered and do you know what has worked wonders for me when it comes to controlling this anxiety? Having a routine or something repetitive and stable. For me that has been my morning routine, which I have a separate video about – I’ll link it in the description.
In his original paper about the hierarchy of needs, Maslow wrote about the importance of routines and schedules for children – because they help them feel more secure. And I couldn’t agree more with that, routines bring stability back into our lives!
3. Create a routine
I know things are a little up in the air and some of us are better adjusted than others to working from home, but my actionable tip n3 is: Create a routine or a schedule that you can stick to. If you can’t have a routine that lasts an entire day because you have to be flexible or for any other reason, create a recurring element, for example like my morning routine.
It’s crazy how much that little routine stabilises my mood and helps keep my anxiety under control. Try adopting this super powerful technique for yourself!
4. Talk to your loved ones regularly
The next layer of needs in Maslow’s pyramid is love or belonging. We need to feel like we are part of a community and this has definitely been taken away from us. Try to schedule regular virtual meetings with your family, your friends, your community – anyone that will allow you to feel like you belong.
Of course, these video calls will never feel the same as in-person communication – trust me, my boyfriend and I have spent 3,5 years doing long distance from London to Colorado, so I know it’s not the same. But they are vital to our wellbeing and mental health – especially these days.
Intentionally set up calls with your loved ones, maybe even create a schedule for them! This is our new normal and we have to take advantage of what we have – thank god for technology!
5. Be grateful for what you have
Let’s move onto self-esteem, which is a feeling of accomplishment. I think that we all could use a boost in that department on a regular basis when things are normal, but now it’s especially important. And practicing gratitude is a great way to recognise what you have and what you have achieved in life.
I think gratitude addresses this and so many more psychological needs in Maslow’s pyramid, it’s a wonderful practice and I’ve created a separate post on the topic.
6. Identify your purpose in all of this
Self-actualization and transcendence can be very interrelated, so for the purposes of this post, I’ve decided to group them up here and my actionable advice on them is: identify your purpose in all of this. Purpose gives us direction and a sense of clarity. Having one helps us set goals, feel like we have a reason to be here and makes our experience more meaningful.
A positive side-effect is that it prevents days from merging into one, it gives us this drive and motivation to go further. I’ve created a post on how to gain clarity and identify your purpose in all of this.
And here ends part 1 of my tips of how to take care of your mental health – click here for part 2. In that post, will cover 11 easy but yet very powerful practices that will help you get through this.
Remember though, that just doing these once in a while won’t have the effect you might be looking for, mental health is a journey and not a destination. Try to adopt those practices as regular habits for best results.
I hope these are helpful and I’m sending you love and strength.
Let me know what you’re already practicing in the comments and what you will start doing!