If you’re anything like me, your mental health took a MAJOR hit when COVID took over the world a year ago. I won’t lie, it hasn’t been an easy year for me, but it has taught me so much about myself. I’m super open about my struggles with anxiety, but only recently began to open up about my depression. I never really accepted it for what it was, so I didn’t have good coping mechanisms. When quarantine hit and everyone was stuck inside, I was forced to face the harsh reality that I in fact was severely depressed. I learned many different coping mechanisms for anxiety, but I had none for depression, so for a while I just didn’t do anything about it.
Fast forward a few months, one of my best friends at school noticed something was off and I finally opened up and came to the realization that I was not ok, no matter how many times I claimed I was. After talking with her, I felt so much better like a weight I had been carrying for months was finally lifted.
I reached out to a local therapist, started talking with her weekly and since then have done a full 180. Throughout my sessions, we talked a lot about recognizing feelings and really taking the time to actually feelthem. For example, if I was having a good day, she told me to sit and really pay attention to how I felt in that moment. What was the weather like? What thoughts were going through my mind at that time? How did my body feel? Asking myself those questions helped me get in touch with my mind. I did the same thing with bad days, so I was able to recognize when I wasn’t in the right headspace.
Along with getting in touch with my feelings, she gave me some great coping mechanisms for if I am not having a good day or stuck in a rut. I want to, in no particular order, share my top 5 that have really helped me over the last few months so anyone else stuck knows there most definitely is a way out.
Something I recently started that has helped me so much is meditating. I got into meditating because I saw my reiki girl at home and during my reading, she noticed my mind was racing, my body was aching, and I wasn’t fully present in the moment. She explained that sometimes our minds are about 10 steps ahead of our bodies and it can cause a significant disconnect and even body aches. At the end of the day, it really is mind, body and soul, so we need to make sure they are all linked up. By taking a minimum of 2 minutes a day to just gather my thoughts, it really brings me back. I take that time to focus on my breathing and what I want to accomplish during the day, picturing myself completing each task. I used to always be in such a rush and think “I don’t have 2 minutes to relax!” but it’s important to find those 2 minutes and take them for yourself. Some mornings I will follow a guided meditation, but other times I won’t use a guide. I will just find a comfortable position, set my timer and sit with my thoughts for a few minutes. Meditating is a great way to refresh your brain and take some time to reset. I even notice it helps lower my anxiety throughout the day.
The second thing I like to do is journal. I’m not talking fancy, YouTube style journaling, not that there’s anything wrong with that, that just is not how I prefer to journal. For my birthday my friend got me this cute Gemini journal and I loved it, but I also remember thinking “what am I going to do with this?” One day I just felt super overwhelmed but didn’t feel like talking to anyone, so I grabbed the journal, a colorful pen and just started writing. Journaling quickly became my favorite thing to do when I was having a bad day or even a good one. I loved being able to just write exactly what I felt, and not have to explain myself to anyone or worry if it made sense. Days where I might not have a lot to say, I write a few things I am grateful for to make sure I am in touch with my surroundings. What I like the most about journaling is that if I am having a bad day, I can put all of those feelings and emotions on the page, close the book and put it away. I release what is weighing me down, and will not look back, only forward with the rest of my day. Journals are very cheap at Target or even your favorite bookstore, and I promise it’s worth it.
The third thing my therapist recommended is going for a walk. We all need a break from staring at our computer screens all day. If I’m working on an assignment and feel myself getting stressed out, I will close my computer, put on my sneakers, grab my headphones and head outside. Especially now that the weather is getting warmer, I love to spend time outside. It doesn’t need to be a long walk; I try to go for at least 30 minutes with my favorite playlist or podcast. When I walk, I turn my phone on ‘do not disturb’ because I don’t want any distractions since this is my mental break. Occasionally I’ll walk with my best friend which is nice because it’s time we get to spend together and if I’m having a bad day her company always makes me feel better :,) I made it a goal to walk at least 3 times a week, and I notice a significant change in my mood. I have more energy, I’m able to stay focused longer, and am more efficient with completing my schoolwork. 12/10 recommend a good hot girl walk.
Changing up your routine was something my therapist stressed to me. With the pandemic going on, it’s hard to establish a routine, especially if you’re working or doing school from home. I am constantly in my jammies, there is no reason for me to change because I don’t really leave my apartment. She recommended that I have sleeping pajamas and “day pajamas” that I can change into when I wake up. This way it gets me out of what I wear to relax and unwind at the end of the day. At first, I thought that it won’t work. Spoiler: it does work. Whether I change into my day jammies or a comfy loungewear outfit I already feel 10x more productive. If I’m really feeling bleh, I’ll throw on some light makeup just to feel better. Other things you can do to switch up your routine: one day a week dedicate an hour to something OTHER than work or school with no distractions. I use this hour to read a book, meal prep, make some crafts, walk, or hang out with my roommates. Taking an hour out of my day to do something other than taking notes and answering a discussion post gives me something to look forward to. Another way to switch up your routine is having themed dinners. Taco Tuesdays are ALWAYS a good idea. My favorite way to switch things up is movie nights. My roommates and I watch a lot of movies throughout the week which gets me out of my room and into a more social setting.
My last tip and one of my favorites are to have a self-care day. This can mean literally anything. One of my personal favorite forms of self-care is getting my nails done or painting them myself. It’s a great way to add some color to your day and distract your mind. Other things I do for self-care include but are not limited to walking around Target, doing a FULL shower including exfoliate, wash my hair, shave and finish with a face mask. There is nothing better than getting into bed with freshly exfoliated, shaved and moisturized legs. Another thing I love to include in my self-care day is cleaning and organizing my room. Throwing on some music that obviously includes Harry Styles and Niall Horan while I make my bed and put my clothes away really puts my mind at ease. Fine Line and Heartbreak Weather solve all of my problems. Remember self-care means something different for everyone, so don’t get caught up in what a traditional self-care day might look like, it’s whatever makes you feel your best.
I know some of these tip’s sound kind of lame, but they’re SO effective. I incorporate at least one of them into my routine each day and notice I have more good days than bad. I do still have my fair share of bad days, but I really am blessed with the people I have around to pick me up. Remember it IS okay to ask for help or talk to a friend. Sometimes a hug from your bestie is exactly what the doctor ordered.