1. Take a news break
While it is good to stay informed, too much news can be a bad thing. Taking in everything that is happening can be really bad for your mental health. With new technology, we are more connected than ever and sometimes that is not entirely for the best. You do not need to be completely up to date on all that is happening, you just have to know how to stay safe and healthy. If taking in unnecessary news is hurting you, it is okay to stop. Try limiting your time on the news to a few minutes in the morning and evening and then make a conscious effort to stay away for the rest of the day. Or, try muting notifications or even uninstalling social media and news apps.
2. Focus on other care, not self care
While taking a bubble bath or a candle may help alleviate stress, you can also focus on “other care” for a long-lasting happiness boost. Making someone feel happy can make you feel happy too! And, a recent study even found that caring for others can increase your lifespan. During troubling times, the best of humans is often brought out. Seeing and practicing generosity and kindness can make you feel more optimistic and less depressed. You don’t have to put yourself in danger to help others during this time. You could clap for health care workers, put a sign in your window or on your sidewalk or send a sweet card. Taking just a few minutes every day to let others know you care can help you too.
3. Recognize and accept your emotions instead of pushing them away
Studies have found that accepting negative emotions can lead to greater mental health. Instead of pushing down feelings of stress and sadness, or maybe drowning them in too much ice cream, validate your emotions and be okay with them. It is perfectly normal to be stressed, unproductive and sad right now. Instead of fearing these emotions, know that this is a stressful time and anxiety is perfectly acceptable. Don’t try to control your emotions, but instead recognize them and reflect on them. A big part of meditation is recognizing your thoughts and feelings, but then letting them exist and pass instead of trying to stifle and control them. Let your stress run its course.
4. Write it all down
Write all of your feelings and day to day happenings in a journal. By putting it all down on paper, you might feel a lot better. If you haven’t journaled before, or fell out of it, now is a great place to start. You might need a place to confidentially record all of your feelings. You don’t have to write pages and pages of beautiful writing everyday, just start with a paragraph or two on your day and your overall mood. A study also found that journaling about stressful times can help you recognize the silver linings. Plus, you might want to be able to remember and look back on this time in five or ten years. Having a record of this crazy time in your life might be something you really cherish one day.
5. Meditate, but start small
Yes, meditation can really work. There are many studies on not only the mental, but also the physical benefits, of meditation. Don’t be overwhelmed though to jump right in. You don’t have to achieve nirvana or complete a two hour meditation right off the bat. Instead, start with just a minute of breathing work. Other useful meditations during this time are gratitude meditations or Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM). Although LKM sounds really hippy-dippy, it is a great way of practicing compassion for others. Try a guided meditation on Youtube, download a meditation app or even just take a few focused breaths during your day.
6. Take time to count your blessings
Counting your blessings isn’t just for Thanksgiving. When everything feels hopeless, take time to remember what you have (friends, family, food etc.). Studies show that practicing gratefulness can lead to better satisfaction, less envy and even more sleep. By maintaining an optimistic stance during this time, you can stress less and be happier. Try making a list of five things that you are grateful for before you fall asleep or when you wake up and add to that list everyday. When everything feels impossible, reflect back on the list and everything that you have in life. The benefits take time, but can have a lasting impact on your mental health.
7. Clean up your space
A cluttered space can often lead to a cluttered mind. The bigger the mess, the greater the stress. Calm, and busy yourself, by picking up your surroundings (and maybe even do a deep clean if time permits). If you are spending a lot more time in your house or in your room, it probably is a bit more cluttered than normal. Your room is now your school, place of socializing and everything else, you want to make sure it is not stressing you out. Try starting with one area, maybe a desk or nightstand table, and really clean it. If you like to organize, take this time to organize a drawer or surface. Just make sure that your space is a good place of calm and rest for you. You might even focus better on school work now.
Created with an image by Jonathan Bean - "untitled image"