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10 Ways I've Safeguarded Pandemic Mental Health & Wellness

Since next week is Mental Illness Awareness Week (and we’re still in this pandemic), I’m sharing 10 things that that have safeguarded my mental health and wellness within the last year-and-a-half.

As someone who has some situational depression and a generalized anxiety disorder, I liken my mental pathologies to having physical ones (i.e., type-2 diabetes). Doing so neutralizes any lingering negativity absorbed from the culture and reminds me that they are conditions that need to be managed. That’s all.

Disclaimer: The below is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call the emergency services immediately.

Here’s what helped me:

Mental Health

  1. Getting therapy- I discovered from their sponsorship of the Talkin’ Soprano podcast (which I absolutely love). Having had several therapists throughout my adult life, I’ve found that all of them were good, but none of them lasted more than a year.

Thus, I was a little apprehensive about “therapist shopping.” But BetterHelp has a phenomenal intake process in which they ask you a variety of questions pertaining to your background that can get you matched to the right therapist. I was amazed that within 24-48 hours of completing the intake, I was matched to a phenomenal therapist who gets me. I’m so grateful to have this resource; talk therapy has done wonders for helping me deal with the current uncertainty.

Mental Wellness

  1. Praying - Raised Lutheran (and am now Episcopalian), I’ve leaned on my faith, especially when life circumstances have smashed me to the ground. Like I’ve done since I was a child, I pray every night; when I feel blue, I listen to an uplifting sermon on YouTube. My faith guides me to believe that a brighter future lies ahead, and I need this hope to keep on keeping on.

  2. Meditating - At the beginning of the pandemic, I practiced mindfulness via Headspace several times a day. I still practice it, but I’ve recently gotten into Transcendental Meditation to experience deeper relaxation. Meditation is nervous system regulation via improving cognitive function, lowering blood pressure, and reducing anxiety.

  3. Coaching - You may wonder, why on Earth would you need a coach in addition to a therapist? Although both help me with my thought life, my therapist helps me resolve past traumas and grief lingering from my parents’ death; my coach helps me set goals, design a compelling future, zap limiting beliefs, and step into deeper, happier emotional states. (Also, coaches should have coaches).

  4. Exercising - My physical state affects mental state. Big time. My adventures in #75Hard may have been difficult, but no experience has ever given me such a consistent amount of endorphins and energy.

  5. Pursuing new interests - When I lost my freelance gig at FX Networks in April of 2020, I blinked back tears and allowed myself to be sad for a little bit before realizing, “Cool. Now I get to experiment and build the internet business that I’ve always wanted to.” I created Wake Up with Friends, then pivoted to life coaching when I realized that that was what I was really after. Not only have I learned so much about human development, but I learned how to launch a business, design a website, create social media content, and dream bigger. The Girl Scout in me also loves serving people.

  6. Reviving old interests - Writing has been my lifelong passion. Although I haven’t written a lot in terms of screenplays during the pandemic, I have taken up blog writing. I love that now I’m building an audience and serving them my thoughts (for whatever they’re worth ; ))).

  7. Adapting new mindsets - Inspired by Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, I feel like I’ve adapted more of a growth mindset during the pandemic. This past year, I’ve also discovered, through Brooke Castillo’s brilliant Self-Coaching 101 that circumstances are neutral. In previous versions of my life, I may have thought they were good or bad and “over-owned” them. Now I realize that my thoughts about my circumstances are where the real power lies.

  8. Limiting media consumption - These days, I really only check the news once or twice a day (if that). I feel obligated to stay current on major news stories, but absorbing too much negativity about events I can’t control doesn’t help my mental state.

  9. Connecting with family and friends - I call my Cool Aunt Inge several times a week. In her 80s, she lives with her cat Artemis in a small fishing village in Denmark. We’re similar in that we’re both creative (she paints, and I write); it’s important to stay close to kindred spirits. Now that things have opened up in Los Angeles a bit more, I make sure to go out twice a week with friends. I need the connection.

I’m grateful that Western culture is beginning to de-stigmatize and normalize this topic. Maintaining proper mental health and wellness is absolutely foundational to a live well-lived; everything else springs from it.

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