You are ultimately responsible for your own mental state during the pandemic and you have more control over your mental state than you think. We are all now restricted in ways we did not anticipate. Understanding and REALLY internalizing the fact that in the before-pandemic times, your beliefs about how much control you had over your external environment, economy, safety, etc were vastly exaggerated is vital. With that realization, you may also come to understand and internalize that you actually have more control now than you think.
Being human, and owning a human brain, comes with rights and responsibilities, many of which we have collectively been shirking for years. When you continually fill your time and attention with distracting activities that require no focus and are intended purely to ward off boredom, you are not using your brain to its capacity. When you seek out extremely stimulating input continually, it is like a drug addiction. You lose your ability to focus.
Giving thanks (gratitude) and managing expectations are two actions that can help you cope with the stresses of these turbulent, unpredictable times. When you express gratitude, you are recognizing and appreciating what you have rather than focusing on what you don’t have. And when you keep your expectations in check, you can avoid most unpleasant surprises, or at least know that they are a possibility before having to feel disappointed.
Giving freely of yourself to others and performing acts of service in whatever way you can will go a long way toward supporting your mental health. There are so many societal ills attacked up on one another now that it’s hard to believe we will survive with our country in a recognizable form intact. Pick the cause you feel most deeply about and find a way to work on it. If you can’t gather a community in person, find a group online and start something. Or just do it yourself.
Efficiency should not be the primary goal now. Slow down, if you can, and remember to breathe. Count to 10 and give yourself permission to be calm, even if you only have seconds to do so. If you have a little more time, start a mindfulness meditation practice, even a few minutes a day.
These are all strategies I wish I had known and been able to implement earlier in my life to handle my stress, anxiety and depression. There is so much pain and suffering out there now, I’m afraid we will all just grow numb to feeling anything and we all have to fight that impulse as much as possible. There is good and light out there. It exists in those who are authentic, who are raising their voices, those who are fighting on behalf of others with less power, making a place at the table. There will be a seat for everyone when we are done with the work.