So 2020 isn’t exactly a banner year for our mental health, is it? Between COVID, wildfires, hurricanes, the election, and countless other stressors, it can be difficult—really difficult—to stay positive. But to do our best at work and be our best selves at home, it’s crucial that we maintain a positive outlook and look after ourselves.
Here are four ways to remain positive during tough times.
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Take Care of Your Mental and Physical Health
Put yourself first. Your mental and physical well-being are important. If you’re struggling, everyone around you will feel the effects. It can be particularly hard for women, and especially moms, to put themselves first, but you can’t help others if you need help yourself. Of course, you should follow basic advice like eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. But here are a few more suggestions:
Take a step back.
Turn off the news if you need to and stay off social media if it stresses you out. Okay, I know that might be easier said than done. But I’ve implemented a strict no-Twitter rule at least half an hour before bed, and it’s made an enormous difference in my ability to fall asleep at night. Small tweaks can have a big impact.
Find a way to de-stress.
I love Headspace for mindfulness and meditation. I’ve fallen out of a consistent routine, but even single meditations can help calm me down when I’m feeling stressed or anxious. They even have specific (free!) packs to help people cope with stress related to the coronavirus. If you’ve never meditated before, the Headspace Guide to Mindfulness and Meditation can be a good place to start.
Yoga is also a great way to find your zen. Bonus: it improves your physical health. I have a lot of friends who recommend Yoga by Adrienne on YouTube, but my personal favorite is YogaTX. They’re completely free and have a bunch of different teachers, so you’re sure to find one you like. They’re great for beginners and have a bunch of videos under 10 minutes, so you can start small.
Give yourself permission to indulge. Start a skincare routine or take a relaxing bath. At the very least, buy that scented candle you saw on Etsy last night. Do something small for yourself that feels extravagant. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference it can make.
This might be the hardest suggestion to follow. But if you’re really struggling and think you might suffer from depression or other serious mental health issues, seek help from a professional. Your primary care physician should be able to recommend someone to help. And check your health benefits and employee handbook! Some companies offer free counseling lines or other resources to help.
Set Up Your Space To Stay Motivated
Taking time for yourself is so important, but you can’t just shut off your day-to-day responsibilities. One thing you can do is improve your work space—whether that’s a corporate office or your kitchen table.
Wherever you spend your workdays, make sure you brighten up your space. Yes, literally. Natural light is proven to improve your health, make you happier, and increase productivity. So if you can, try to set up a spot to work near a window that gets a lot of light.
Try to find other ways to make your workspace more welcoming, as well. Plants are practically magic. Besides making your room look great, they can lower stress, boost creativity, and even improve air quality. Add a few personal items to your desk to make you smile throughout the day. Pictures of family and friends can do wonders during a stressful moment. And motivational quote art can be the office wall decor you never knew you needed to give you a boost during a tough day.
However you decorate your cubicle or home office, make it right for you. There are countless articles on what color to paint your room to stay calm or to energize you, but if you don’t like the recommended shade of yellow or teal or fuchsia, it’s not going to have the desired effect on you. Little touches can go a long way, so start by changing your computer wallpaper. Then, little by little, make your workspace your own. And go ahead, get that fiddle leaf fig tree for the empty corner in your office.
Depending on the situation where you live and the health of your family and friends, you may still be staying home most of the time. If you live pretty much anywhere in the US, traveling is certainly more difficult now than it was back in January. That means many Americans are facing a holiday season where they won’t get to see their family in person. But that doesn’t mean you can’t connect.
It’s more important now than ever to stay connected with family and friends, even if you have to do so virtually. Whether it’s a virtual happy hour or Thanksgiving Dinner streamed over Zoom, make use of technology to bring your family and friends (and even coworkers) into your home. We all got used to doing this back in March, but I bet your family or friend Zoom calls have slowed since life has started to return to some form of normalcy.
You don’t have to wait for the holidays to bring back Zoom calls. Schedule a weekend meet up with your college friends you haven’t seen in years, or Facetime your childhood best friend who you’ve been too busy to call. You’ll be surprised at how fulfilling a video call can be! And now that everyone’s gotten used to doing conference calls in sweats with their kids yelling behind them, nobody will give your messy background and makeup-free look a second thought.
Okay, so we’ve covered how to disconnect and destress. But that’s won’t solve the real-world issues that are causing all of this stress in the first place. No, I don’t expect you to fix all the world’s problems. But feeling helpless isn’t helping. So do something.
Studies have shown that performing random acts of kindness can have a significant impact on your mood and improve your physical health. Volunteering can even help you live longer. So choose a cause you care about, and sign up to volunteer. If you’re healthy and low-risk, you can deliver food to elderly neighbors or work at a soup kitchen. Or you can find volunteer opportunities that you can do from your own home. By doing something, no matter how small, to help, you can feel more in control of the situation.
If the upcoming election is adding to your stress, do something about it and make a plan to vote. Take it a step further and encourage others to vote, as well. If you’re an introvert like me, Vote Forward is a great organization that allows you to send letters to people to encourage them to vote—no phone calls necessary. When you’re doing something it’s hard to feel helpless.
Understand what you can’t control and control what you can. When you put things into perspective, you’re less likely to get stressed. Even small actions can make a big difference when it comes to staying positive. Feel good about what you are doing, and don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do it all. Times are tough. Really tough. But we’ll get through it.