This past year, our collective mental health took quite the beating. The loss of jobs, loss of face-to-face connection, and loss of lives has delivered a lasting blow to our spirits.
However, we’re a resilient people, and we will get through this. And we may even be able to learn some things along the way.
So, as you prepare to return to the office or send your kids back to full-time in-person school, let’s explore some ways to make sure you become a long-term advocate of your mental health.
Create Healthy Boundaries:
The days of feeling compelled to stay at the office until 8 pm has vanished (for now). They’ve been replaced by a work-from-home dynamic that some people love, and others hate.
Some people love the flexibility to work when they want, avoid the daily commute, and spend more time with their families.
Others miss the camaraderie they experience in a bustling office. Others still haven’t been able to nail down the work-life balance while working remotely, and they’ve found themselves working more than when they worked in an office.
The key here is to create healthy boundaries. Create a strict schedule for yourself so you don’t aimlessly keep working until bedtime. If that’s difficult, try going for a walk around the block when you first start your day and do the same when you end it. This is sending the message to your body that your workday is done, and you can move into relaxation mode (even if that takes place in the same room).
Healthy boundaries extend beyond work life as well. Maybe your mother is offended if you do something with your kids and don’t invite her. While we can empathize that she missed you all while she was quarantining, it doesn’t mean you have to plan your schedule around her. Lay down some (gentle) boundaries that there are going to be times when you do things on your own, but you’ll be sure to include her often.
Take Time for Yourself:
Self-care has always been an essential part of our routine, but now it may be more important than ever.
If your self-care practice fell by the wayside with the added complications that the pandemic brought to your life, try to carve out time to bring them back.
You’re going to be seeing more people again – give yourself an extra ten minutes in the shower to do that deep-conditioning treatment. Now, you’ll feel more confident with your shiny hair as you get back into the social world.
Or maybe your eyes are tired after looking at a screen all day. Instead of binge-watching another show, treat yourself to a new puzzle and set up a little workstation.
Whatever sounds fun to you – do it!
Reach Out for Help If You Need It:
The pandemic was a triggering experience for many of us. Some of us fell into old bad habits… while others started new ones.
Maybe you started drinking a few glasses of whisky at night. And then three or four. And then five.
Or maybe you were so anxious that you called up your old dealer, and found yourself right back in opioid addiction.
If this is the case, please ask for support. Maybe that comes in the shape of a weekly therapist. Or maybe you need something a bit more intensive that will help you get off the drugs for good and create new self-regulation patterns. For one, a private rehab center might be a good option.
No matter what you think will be best for you, don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
Reassess What You Value In Life:
Of the many things to come out of the pandemic, one bright spot is the ability to gain some perspective. Oftentimes our darkest days give us the sharpest moments of clarity.
Now that our world is returning to normal, what do you want to prioritize in your life?
Do you still want to spend an hour editing the perfect picture to get 100 likes on social media? Or would you rather spend that time with the people whose opinions you truly care about?
Do you want to stay in the dead-end job you hate? Or do you want to learn a new skill set in your leisure time, which could lead to your dream job?
No matter what epiphany you may have experienced this year, remember that there’s no better time than the present. We’ve lost a lot of things this year, but let’s learn from it, and move forward with grace and strength.