In a February 2021 report released by the American Psychological Association, mental health stress is at the highest level since the global coronavirus pandemic was declared over a year ago. COVID-19, political derision, and economic uncertainty were identified as the top culprits for this new psychiatric pandemic.
As American tax refunds begin to bolster bank accounts, the U.S. government passed legislation authorizing a third round of economic stimulus and stability money for millions of citizens – creating a prime opportunity to invest in our mental health!
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control suggests multiple ways to help cope and manage chronic stress in our lives. In accordance with these recommendations, consider using a portion of your tax return and/or stimulus payments to:
Eat Healthy, Well-Balanced Meals
Our mind and body are inseparably connected and ensuring our mind gets the quality fuel it needs means eating healthy, well-balanced meals. Tired of the same food delivery service but wary of wearing masks and social distancing at the store? Need some easy tips and suggestions for what to cook? No problem! There are dozens of companies who will take the guesswork out of dinner for you! Subscription services like Hello Fresh, Green Chef, and Dinnerly send healthy dinners to your doorstep with everything you need to cook delicious and nutritious meals. There are even options for low calorie, gluten-free, and low-sodium diets. Many of the services offer steep discounts for new customers, and all these services offer hassle-free cancellation (without penalties!) to stop subscription deliveries.
Have you put on a few “pandemic pounds” because of extended quarantines and economic restrictions? You are not alone! As social restrictions are relaxed due to vaccinations and improving pandemic conditions, there is no time like the present to get back into your workout routine and exercise regularly. Whether it is at your local gym, purchasing a smart watch to track activity, or buying exercise equipment, increasing our physical activity helps to relieve stress and improve mood.
Don’t forget to consult with your physician before starting any exercise regimen. Also, consider starting slowly to prevent injury after extended periods of not exercising. We likely won’t be able to immediately bench the weight we were at before the pandemic, but regular weight training will get us back in shape in no time.
I know, I was reading your mind: “What if I don’t like to exercise or lift weights?” Have no fear! Meditation and stretching offer incredible physical and mental health benefits also. Smart phone apps like Calm can teach you to meditate in the comfort of your own home – many with free services that do not require a subscription. There are also opportunities in communities large and small to try yoga classes or karate lessons. If you’ve never been to either, let me assure you: It takes incredible focus to do the praying mantis on a yoga mat, and it takes intense dedication to learn your karate kata! Activities such as these help us to feel better by focusing our minds on our bodies in the here and now, helping us to channel our worries and stresses into healthy activities.
Do Some Other Activities You Enjoy
There is no doubt about it – we have all given up something during this pandemic. Trying to reclaim some normalcy by doing some other activities we enjoy is most certainly helpful in reducing stress and improving mood. What were your interests you were no longer able to do during lockdown? What is something you always wanted to try, but couldn’t? Consider taking an art class like painting or pottery. Consider grabbing the fishing pole out of the garage and getting outdoors. Heck, maybe even consider buying those new sneakers you’ve wanted and take ‘em out on a hike. Unless you’ve enjoyed being locked up at home, having a change of scenery and engaging in activities that interest us will undoubtedly help our mental health.
If you are struggling with managing your stress, you do not have to suffer alone. Try some of the suggestions mentioned, and talk to your family, friends, church parishioners, physician, or community mental health provider. Chronic stress can have serious impacts on physical and mental health.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or are having thoughts of suicide, please seek immediate help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or dial 9-1-1.