5 Ways to Restore Mental Wellness during COVID
NOTE: Dr. Elisha Goldstein will be hosting a Mindful Leader Expert Workshop, Moving from Fear to Empowerment, on May 7th. Click here to learn more.
By Dr. Elisha Goldstein
In the past year of Covid-19 mental wellness for many of us has gone out the window entirely. If you're experiencing that you're not alone. It used to be that 1 in 12 people suffered from symptoms of an anxiety disorder and this last year the CDC found it was 1 in 3. I say this just to give you a sense that you’re not alone in this. I’m going to give five key ways to restore mental wellness that are backed by science and thousands of years of human experience.
#1: Enhance Connection
The first key, and usually the one that's last on people's lists, is meaningful human connection. Why is it important to connect? In 2006 I conducted a national research study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology called Sacred Moments: Implications on Well-Being and Stress. The study found that connection is the epicenter of well-being. When we feel connected we feel safe and secure. This is no different than a strong web. Or if you were on a high wire and you had a strong net beneath you, you'd feel safer than if there was no net or if the net was frayed in some way.
The question of our time is - how do we support greater connection in our lives? One way is to be on the lookout for micro-moments of attending and listening to people in our lives. This could be a checkout person at a grocery store where you're wishing them well in your mind. It can be your friends and family or people that you care about, just making more regular connections with them via text or Facetime. It’s all about knowing that you're connecting while you're being with them - bringing that awareness of connection into your life.
By the way, you could enhance connection with other things in your life. With nature, just be aware of the leaves and the contours of the leaves. Sense into the connection of everything that's around you. This is going to give your nervous system a sense of safety and security which is going to set a strong foundation for the next four keys that come.
#2: Be Active
This is something you already know, but I’m bringing it top of mind. Get physical. Your brain is connected all the way down your spine through your arms and hands with what's called a nervous system. It needs to be exercised and moved because if it's not, the energy gets stuck and we get stuck in a place of either getting overly rigid physically and mentally or things go and become overwhelming and chaotic.
We need to move the body to get the flow going. Also, it just feels good. You can also do a couple push-ups if that's in your regimen. Go on a walk with another person you know is even better because you get the connection.
#3 – Be Present
If you’re following Mindful Leader, this isn’t news to you. Paying attention on purpose with curiosity dials down our inner critic and the noise in our mind. Science shows that when you're attending to something intentionally, even if it's a great piece of food that you're eating, reduces the thinking brain. It's also enjoyable to notice the small beautiful things in life. These could be the eyelashes of someone that you care about, the contours of their face. This could be a flower outside or laying down and looking at the clouds.
There’s something enjoyable about being present. Creating this space for YOU and YOUR LIFE will help restore mental wellness.
#4: Keep Learning, Make Progress
Sometimes life feels routine and that creates a resistance to wonderful experiences. When we’re not learning and growing, at some point. Learning activates the mind. It helps us feel engaged and vital. This could be taking a program, growing, and nurturing your skills. You can do this with guitar, mindfulness, or a whole new curriculum for something you’re interested in.
You can read a book, have a conversation with new people, or hire a mentor or coach to teach you something small or big.
You could sign up for workshops (like this one I'm hosting! - Moving from Fear to Empowerment), books, or even have regular dates with a friend to engage in regular learning. Ask yourself what interests you and move toward that.
#5 – Practice Contribution
Okay, finally, be generous. What's happening when you're generous?
You’re making an effort of connecting. This is about connection again, but in a different way. You're strengthening the web of life for yourself by being generous and something about it feels good. You know the reality is we're interconnected and so when you're generous and you give, you lift up other people and the web gets lifted up too. The great news is that you're part of that web, so that's why it feels so good to give!
Giving could be a smile to somebody.
Giving could be some money that you offer to somebody.
Giving could be teaching somebody something you know.
You can give in so many different ways. Ask yourself, how am I giving? Maybe there's so many ways that you're giving right now but that you're not acknowledging. What’s it like to be aware of the ways that you're giving? Acknowledge it and give yourself a little credit! If you're finding that you're not giving a lot what are some ways that you can give?
Reflection Practice: Ways to Give
1. Make a list of the ways you give. Be creative with what you add. It can be hard to notice our impact on others, but remember every time you made someone smile or when you complimented a friend or gave to charity.
2. Make a list of times when you could do something kind for someone in the future.
3. Think of simple ways, a smile, a teaching, or some money towards an organization that you appreciate and want to see grow.
To Recap: There are five keys to restoring our mental wellness during this time.
1. Create Meaningful Human Connection - Finding ways to connect more meaningfully with other people.
2. Be Active - be physical, get your body involved in life. - Create more vitality for yourself. It feels good and you send the message to yourself that you're worth paying attention to.
3. Be Mindful - be present, be curious about things in life. - Curiosity has been shown to be heavily connected to and correlated to feeling well in life. Make sure to get that going in a variety of ways.
4. Keep Learning, Keep Growing - be engaged, be active. - Consider what you interested in, what can you learn right now? What can you grow? Even during Covid-19 there's so much opportunity to learn.
5. Be Generous - Strengthen that web that's there. - Ask yourself, what am I doing in these different areas of my life right now? What are some areas that I could encourage more growth in these areas or maybe celebrate the things I’m already doing?
I hope this was supportive and I look forward to going deeper with you at my upcoming workshop with Mindful Leader, Moving from Fear to Empowerment, on May 7th. Click here to learn more.