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Practicing Self-Care to Improve Your Mood

Mental Health Awareness Month is a good occasion to discuss the importance of mental wellbeing, especially since it coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic. Practicing self-care is an important way of promoting mental wellbeing and navigating the challenges that we all currently face. AJE has tips for prioritizing your mental health through self-care.

Bowl with Fruits and Yogurt

The unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new challenges and has amplified mental health issues that are common among graduate students and researchers. Taking care of your family at home while working remotely and simultaneously coping with feelings of sadness and fear can quickly increase stress levels and anxiety. Thus, self-care is more important now than ever.

Practicing self-care can help you manage negative feelings and keep moving forward with your daily activities. Here are AJE’s tips for practicing self-care:

  1. Meet your basic needs: Part of self-care is ensuring that your basic needs are met. If you or someone close to you is facing unemployment or a salary cut, make a budget and plan wisely. Local food banks and other organizations can help you find resources. If you have a mortgage, talk to your lender; if you rent, talk to your landlord.

  2. Take care of your body: A healthy body is the foundation of a healthy mind. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and prepare homemade meals. Watch your intake of salt and sugar. Choose water over sugary drinks, sleep seven to eight hours a night, and exercise regularly. If you are not able to exercise outdoors because of social distancing requirements, use your TV or computer to find virtual fitness classes and activities. Open the windows to ensure you get fresh air. If possible, take time to enjoy fun activities and hobbies, or just spend time relaxing outside.

  3. Maintain a routine: Try to maintain a routine at home. This can decrease anxiety and give you a sense of control. However, flexibility is also important, especially if you have children sharing your remote workspace. Focus on the present and look for opportunities to be grateful throughout your day. Take breaks for quality family time. You may be surprised at how calming this can be for your children (if you have them). Use technologies such as video calling and other virtual options to keep in touch with family members and friends.

  4. Take care of your mind: If possible, limit media intake. Look for news and information from trusted sources, and be careful not to share incorrect information. Focus on your mental wellbeing. Give yourself the gift of some quiet time to relax, pray, meditate, or read a good book.

  5. Be part of something bigger than yourself: Expand your horizons beyond your circle of friends and family by donating what you can to help less-fortunate people and those on the front lines, such as healthcare providers and other essential workers. These essential personnel need additional support. If you are an essential worker yourself, take all the necessary precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

  6. Watch for red flags: Keep an eye out for red flags such as feelings of despair and depression, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and excessive tiredness. If your anxiety or sadness increases to the point of interfering with your daily activities, or if you begin to consider self-harm, seek medical help. Many mental health professionals are currently offering video conference appointments. There is no shame in asking for help.

If you take care of yourself both mentally and physically, you will be more likely to be able to help others around you. Most importantly, remember that everyone is navigating this unprecedented situation together. You are not alone.

Published on 05/19/2020

Thanks to Rebecca Hendrickson, Mary Anderson, Melissa Schumacher, Molly Amador, and Sheila Vieira for contributing to this article.

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