From fear to loneliness to frustration to grief, it’s safe to say many people have faced a wide range of emotions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the globe, people have been isolated from loved ones, concerned about their safety, and barraged with bad news day in and day out.
While you took every measure to stay physically safe by social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying at home, did you also prioritize your mental health?
May is Mental Health Month — a month to spread the word that mental health is a critical aspect of your well-being. During COVID-19, mental health awareness is even more essential.
This Mental Health Month, take the time to really check in on how you are feeling. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself every day.
1. How Am I Feeling Today?
This one sounds obvious, but how often do you ask yourself how you are feeling — and then pause to genuinely consider your response?
Checking in on your mental health starts with assessing how you are feeling. Do you notice feeling stress, anxiety, worry, sadness, or other challenging emotions?
Use a scale of 1 to 10, and take note of how you feel at the same time each day. You can do this physically in a notebook or journal, or you can simply keep a mental track of your numbers. If your number goes down, that’s a sure sign you need to pay attention to your mental health.
Additionally, it’s important to notice how you’re feeling physically, too. Some ways mental health concerns can show up physically include:
- Stress: Headaches, body pains, skin rashes, or worsening of chronic health problems
- Anxiety: Headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, or frequent urination
- Depression: Appetite changes, weight loss or gain, loss of energy, and unexplained aches and pains
2. What's Been Worrying Me Lately?
Next, take a moment to think specifically about what’s been weighing on you recently. Is it work, family, friends, money, or COVID-19? Maybe it’s one, two, or even nine different things that are worrying you. Whatever it is, it’s important to notice how these potential triggers make you feel — and to do your best to address them.
For instance, if you’re worried about COVID-19, take breaks from the news and social media at least a few times a day . Also, try journaling, meditation, or taking a warm bath .
If it’s work on your mind, try tracking your stressors in a journal to see what situations stress you out the most. Then, try to develop healthy responses, like taking a 10-minute break or establishing clear boundaries .
If you don’t know what’s causing negative feelings, it will be tough to address them. Take the time to identify your stressors, and then you can work on managing them.
3. Am I Providing My Body With Its Basic Needs?
Sometimes, we get so busy that we forget to focus on the basics — food, exercise, and sleep. These are simple but critical ways to ensure you’re staying healthy both mentally and physically.
Make sure you:
- Eat nutrient-rich meals full of fruits and veggies, and drink enough water .
- Get moving at least once a day, whether you take a brisk walk or do an online workout video.
- Sleep between 7 and 9 hours each night.
Additionally, if you find that you’re not caring for your body, that can be a sign of a mental health concern. For instance, if you’re having trouble sleeping, that could be a sign of depression . Or, if you’re not feeling hungry, that could be a sign of stress .
Your mental and physical health are deeply intertwined — and paying attention to both is key to your overall wellness.
4. What Am I Doing to Bring Myself Joy?
With everything on your to-do list, it can be easy to push leisure activities down to the bottom. But taking time to be happy is so important to your mental health.
Ask yourself what you’re doing to bring yourself joy. If you can’t think of anything, that needs to change.
Some ways to incorporate joy into your life include:
- Keep a gratitude journal and write three things you are grateful for each day.
- Plan a mini getaway, like a camping trip or staycation near your home.
- Get creative with a new recipe, painting, or a new crafting project.
- Watch a funny movie or television show.
- Visit with loved ones who make you smile.
- Spend time with your dog, cat, or another loving pet.
- Sit outside in the sun for 15 minutes .
5. Who Do I Have In My Corner?
Having a strong support system is essential to your mental health. Ask yourself who you consider trustworthy and loving that you can turn to when you need it most.
Whether it’s a partner, sibling, healthcare provider, faith leader, or other trusted individual, make sure you have at least one person in your life who:
- Gives good advice when you ask for it
- Is respectful and trustworthy
- Allows you space to make decisions, grow, and even make mistakes
- Actually listens to you
- Has your best interests at heart
Support groups are a great resource to find a group of people who can relate to your challenges and provide support. Read more about support groups at Chester County Hospital.
Make Checking in on Your Mental Health Routine
It takes time to form a habit. At first, purposefully asking yourself questions about your mental health might feel strange. But over time, it will become a natural part of your routine.
The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to put many people through extra stress. By being proactive and monitoring your mental health, you can ensure you stay happy, healthy, and prepared to take on anything life throws your way.
Related Information from Chester County Hospital: