Updated: Apr 15
The world can change so fast.
It’s so easy to forget when you’re in the trenches of day-to-day, coffee—>workout—>work—>more work—>tv—>sleep grind that is so easy to get trapped in.
And then you wake up one day and the entire world is upside down.
I don’t know about you, but my first week into this lifestyle of social distancing was rough.
My body and mind collapsed from the weight of the stress for a few days and things got a little hopeless. I’ve spent 10 years working on routines and good habits to fight depression and then overnight they were almost all closed or taken away.
I am not an expert on mental health; I don’t have a fancy degree. As one book publisher told me after 14 months of working together, “Call us when you’re a nationally recognized authority on suicide prevention.”
I guess I better call Oprah.
But what I have worked tirelessly to do over the past 8 years is share my authentic self—bruises and all—-with the world in hopes that you might see yourself in some of my story and find a tall, sarcastic companion on this crazy journey we call life.
One of the reasons I struggled so much is I’m built to be a helper, an action-taker, an enneagram 3, an INFJ, see a problem and make a freaking difference.
But all I could do was stay home. and maybe pray. and I had all these really big emotions and nowhere for them to go except to just take me down for a few days.
After that initial storm of sadness and grief, this week has been majorly improved. I’m starting to find a routine, new workout schedules, and new ways of connecting with people.
So today I am sharing 30 Mental Health Tips for COVID-19 in hopes that one might resonate with you and make all of this really hard stuff a little easier.
I teach about depression as a fight on three fronts—physical, mental and spiritual. Click here to check out all of my posts on depression and suicidal thoughts.
Physical – What is happening in your physical body.
1. Make a schedule. Try to put something in that isn’t the same every day and always plan for at least 30 minutes of fun.
2. Sweat every day. Now is the perfect time to work on your physical health. There are tons of free workouts out there and almost every fitness guru ever is posting 8,948 workouts on Instagram every minute.
3. Drastically limit your exposure to social media and the news. I want you to stay informed without sending yourself into a frenzy. Try to limit yourself to two twenty-minute news sessions at the most and, whenever possible, get it through a first-hand source by watching your governor or the President.
4. Wake up at the same time – Sleep is the backbone of all health and mental health. Really focus on getting 7-9 hours of sleep and waking up at generally the same time each day.
5. Eat 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables. Don’t binge sugar. Now is the time to make sure your diet is colorful and nutritious both for your mental health and for your immune system.
6. Create a self-care tool kit – often using all senses. A fuzzy or weighted blanket, a candle or essential oil, hot tea or cold ice cream, a favorite activity (reading, writing, coloring, playing music, a puzzle), music or a record, a journal, a Bible.
7. Fill your prescriptions – it’s easy to get out of the routine in times like this. Stay consistent.
8. Clean. Organize. Declutter. Remodel. Marie Kondo your brains out. A clean, organized space will improve your mood and mental health.
9. Group Coaching – This is a new program I am offering. It is an online group that meets 10 times on Zoom starting April 20, 2020. Click here to see all the details.
10. MAKE A COVID BUCKET LIST – A few items on mine: learn to make the perfect omelet, re-organize my kitchen and the big closet, build a fireplace, read “Educated.”
Mental – What is happening in your mind including your self-talk and your connections with others.
1. Connect with a Counselor/Therapist – If you have never tried counseling, now is a perfect time. Almost every therapist has moved online and thee are plenty of organizations out there that offer sessions online.
2. Do something good for someone else – Volunteering or giving back always improves my mental health. Consider buying a gift card from a small business in your area, write a note to an elderly neighbor, or sending postcards to those in isolation.
3. Have one meaningful conversation every day – Find some way to use technology to connect with someone every day. This is important not just during COVID-19, but always. Make sure you are connecting on a heart level with someone.
4. Lower your productivity expectations – Look, part of my trouble last week was my sky-high expectations for productivity. I tend to be at my worst when I cannot accomplish 28 things a day. It’s not healthy. I work on it constantly, but it’s where I’m at people. It’s okay to cut yourself some slack during a stressful, global crisis.
5. Plan a digital happy hour and play games – Alcohol being a depressant, isn’t always great for those who battle depression but if you don’t have a history of abuse, one drink with your friends can really make for a fun night. Last week my college buddies all jumped on a video chat–the first time we’ve ever done that in 10 years
6. Write down what is worrying you or troubling you – If you have a million thoughts a minute try journaling or writing what is happening in your brain. Writing can be one of the most healing activities as you can frame the world as you are experiencing it.
And if you’re lucky like Anne Frank, maybe someone will steal it and sell millions of copies. Okay, lucky was the wrong word choice… LOVE YOU ANNE FRANK.
7. Focus on today – Remind yourself that all this is temporary. You have been through challenges before and you will get through this too. I happen to like Post-its for that.
8. Do one thing every day to make your life better or make the world a better place and photograph it – Make an album on your phone or on your computer and look at the photos when you’re struggling.
9. Create an “If I’m in trouble” plan – If you’ve ever had suicidal thoughts, it is a great idea to make a plan for what you will do if those thoughts come back. It might sound like texting two people and asking,
I know we’re suppose to stay home, but if things get really bad for me can I please come hangout on your couch for a few hours.
10. Look for the good – God promises He will use all things for good, even this whole crazy business we’re living in. Maybe that is more intentional time with family. Maybe that is caring for your health more. Maybe that is spending time with Him.
Spiritual – How am I connecting to something greater than myself?
1. Connect with God or with something greater than yourself – for some people that might be love or compassion.
2. Find a creative outlet – music, art, writing, dancing – whatever it is your soul is whispering for you do to, CREATE. No one has to see it if you’re afraid, but sometimes creativity can free our minds and spirits in a way nothing else can.
3. Ask questions about your Purpose – Got some extra time on your hands? Journal or meditate on what you want the purpose of your life to be. Mine has been help as many people as possible not feel alone.
4. Plan where you want to be in 3 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years – Invite God into those plans. Looking to the future (and planning steps to get there) can help you move beyond the doom and gloom and into a better future.
5. Find a spiritual community and connect with them – I think it’s a shame America became a country afraid to talk about religion. Here’s the thing, I can believe in Jesus AND ALSO respect other people’s beliefs. Mind-blowing I know. Use this time to explore or reconnect with your faith.
6. Go stare at the stars, a sunrise, a sunset. Go for a hike – Nature has a way of resetting our mental health that is truly amazing.
7. Work towards your big dreams – Whatever that dream is you have tucked under your bed–get that out. Dust it off. Spend some time finding a way you’re going to change the world and get moving.
8. Take time for self-growth – Read a book. Learn a new skill. Listen to a good podcast. This doesn’t have to be wasted time.
9. Practice radical empathy and self-love – now is not the time to beat yourself up over the past. To be fair, it’s never the right time for that. I don’t know that I was ever truly happy until I started trying to love myself and the world around me.
10. Focus on your people – In this time of crisis, focusing on caring and loving your people is plenty.
If you’re struggling with your mental health during all of this, you are not alone. No one has the perfect answers and we’re all scrambling to figure it out together.
Reach out for help. Get the healing you deserve. We are in this together.
What tips would you add? What have you found to be helpful? Leave in the comments below.