In March 2020 I felt as if we were brought into a new world without the proper tools to survive. If you’re anything like me and hate when things aren’t in your control, the theme of uncertainty that came with this “new normal” probably threw your life completely off balance too.
The natural negativity bias that we possess got a firm hold of me, resulting in a steady decline in my wellbeing. The negativity bias says that even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes, than neutral or positive things. This can have detrimental effects on many aspects of our lives including our work, health, relationships, and happiness.
I know I am not alone when I say that my mental health took a huge downfall during this pandemic. When my anxiety and depression worsened, at times I would feel completely hopeless. Every second of the day, I drifted into the depths of my thoughts asking myself questions I knew I did not have the answers to because the future was uncertain.
How was my life supposed to go on with such uncertainty? How was I supposed to function in this new reality without a definite structure? When would it all get better? I eventually learned that focusing on my internal locus of control rather than the external, was what would save me. Being brought into this new world or this new normal, meant that I had no choice but to adapt and focus on the things I could control. This was the only way I would gain my sanity. So, how did I combat this negativity bias, declining mental health, and adapt to the new normal? Here are five ways in which I was able to gain sanity and still continue to use as we grow through this pandemic:
Take a more meaningful approach to Social Media
I am an avid user of my phone. I typically am scrolling through my Instagram feed, clicking on different news headlines, and occasionally scrolling through Twitter.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve become an adult and my rose colored glasses have been stripped off, or if the world has actually shed more light on the injustices people encounter daily, but scrolling is not the same anymore.
I was and still am constantly learning about different ways to advocate, finding different stories to listen to, sharing my experiences with other Black people, or finding out something new and terrifying about our nation and its state on social media. Learning, listening to stories, and sharing my experiences has been valuable, but at some points it has an undesirable effect. Sometimes scrolling through social media during this pandemic feels as if you’re getting slapped in the face with bad news left and right. It can be hard to escape the bad news in your feed, but easy to keep scrolling and looking for the bad news.This is doom scrolling and I’d be surprised if you had not heard this term until the pandemic hit.
One way I combat this is through taking breaks from social media. It’s a privilege to separate yourself from the bad in the world, but sometimes when everything became too much, I would neglect the media for days or weeks on end. It’s important for your mental health to take breaks and focus on what’s in front of you that is good or going well. There’s a difference between ignoring reality and creating a good balance of what you consume from day to day.
Another way I combat this was by following uplifting and productive social media accounts. Some examples are, @wethurban, @alex_elle, @thegoodquote and @vibranthoney.
Exercise regularly, not only for physical health, but for mental health
At the beginning of the pandemic I honestly found myself drinking more than usual because I felt as if I had nothing to do. After too much drinking in the first month, something needed to change. That game changer for me was going on runs and doing other forms of exercise.
If there’s one intervention all of my past therapists have in common, it’s that exercise will improve my mental state. I try to exercise for at least 45 minutes a day to maintain a healthy mental and physical state. Not every week is successful for me, sometimes I go a week or two without doing anything. During the weeks I don’t exercise, I feel the difference. I feel more down, more tired, and less motivated. Once I force myself to get back up again, I automatically feel a sense of clarity and stability.
Take walks in nature
Just as exercise can have profound effects on your mental, so does the environment you are in. Of course in the beginning of the pandemic, we found ourselves staying in the house all day long. I honestly felt trapped and that at any moment, I was going to have to make a break for it. The cabin fever was unreal and I had to get out. So, with feeling comfortable enough to exercise outside, I thought it was appropriate to find trails or mountains to hike around me. I’d usually go by myself and take it all in. Making sure to look up, down, and around me. I’d listen to the sounds of the trees and the water running, and feel at peace. When I do this, I feel the beauty of the world and get a chance to forget about the bad.
I’ve learned that life is too short to wait on what you want. Go after what it is you desire and deserve! I’m not saying to go crazy, but if you have the means to go after or get what you want, do it. Why wait? This pandemic has made me realize that tomorrow isn’t promised.
Stop diagnosing yourself with COVID!
As a fellow hypochondriac to another, please please please stop diagnosing yourself with COVID. When masks began to be implemented, anytime I’d go to the grocery as my one escape from the house, I would convince myself that I got COVID. As if anything I touched at the grocery store would give me COVID. I’d obsessively clean my groceries and wash my hands. Again, leading back to mental health, this was taking a toll on my psyche. So, I told myself as long as I was following the CDC guidelines, I would be on the safer side.
The beginning of the pandemic had me living life from day to day rather than thinking about the past, present and future on a daily basis. This new way of living was unusual for me but also a major lesson. Life was so uncertain, so worrying about the future was unproductive and dwelling on the past was just useless. In some ways, I learned how to keep myself balanced or maintain a consistent sense of stability during the pandemic.
Some of these strategies that I shared, brought about better habits that helped improve my mental health and make me an overall better person. I now know my limits, and what will benefit my wellbeing. I know how much scrolling I can take, to unfollow accounts that make me feel bad about myself, to get up each day and try to be active. I know to nourish my body, to treat myself when I have the means to do so, to get outside and breathe fresh air, and to be grateful for each day that I have.
Paige is a young professional with a BA in psychology and a passion for health, fitness, and the mind. While currently working in the healthcare field and making space for underrepresented communities in biomedical research, in spare time she likes to go for runs, go on hikes, and travel.