End of Year Anxiety: 4 Tips on Coping with Your Mental Health
One of my core beliefs is that the ability to cope with and manage in life is directly related to the ability to sit with a pile of s**t in your lap and deal with it until you can find a way to get rid of some or all. For many, 2020 has brought larger than usual piles of s**t.
It would be one thing if it were over a brief period of time. Many of us live in places where we suffer difficult periods of weather. Things like snowstorms, hurricanes. Flooding can create stress and challenges for days if not weeks. But we are in the 11th month of the year that has brought multiple sources of stress and metaphorical s**t in our lives.
While we are struggling with these increased stresses, we are also increasingly limited in our ability to use valuable coping skills. Environments such as gyms, where we can utilize physical activity and casual social contact, are no longer “safe” places for everybody. And the casual social contact that helps us get through our day, is also more challenging. With masks, we can’t even see the smile of a stranger. Attending support groups or religious services is not an option for many.
So how do we increase our ability to tolerate this pile without getting mentally and physically depleted? There are a few strategies to consider.
Focus on the Positive
Consider that despite the marathon nature of 2020, it is time-limited. Some things, such as political ads and the constant pulse of the election drum, are over, and drawing to a conclusion. So shall the other challenges in our lives. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. The older we get, the more we should focus on the positives and less dwell on the regrets.
Connect with People
From a practical standpoint, reach out to people, even if that is a phone or video call. Nowadays, many people are feeling alone and isolated, and most will be happy to receive a hello from a long-lost friend or acquaintance. Having some regular time to be able to talk, even video, with others is important, especially if you are living alone. We are social beings, and from the time we are born, seek human faces to look at. Being deprived of that through quarantine or stay at home measures takes a heavy toll over an extended period of time. Seeking social contact, even if not in person, can help reduce the damaging isolation that triggers worsening depression, anxiety, and other serious health issues.
Nurture Your Health
Eat healthier. It’s ok to enjoy an occasional treat, but the bulk of your diet should be healthier foods. Make sure you are getting adequate protein. Often our stress eating overloads us on salty, sugary fatty foods with little nutritional value. Try to counteract that by planning a healthy diet, even if you fill in with some snacks here and there.
Move Your Body
It’s tempting to fall into the couch or comfy chair in front of a screen for hours. It’s easy and tempting but not healthy. Set an alarm or just practice getting up at least once an hour and move around for at least 10-15 minutes. March in place, walk around, take deep breaths, or just swing your arms. Even taking time to practice deep breathing or relaxation exercises can help.
Be careful of what you feed your brain. Limit your exposure to panic and anger-inducing television and the internet. Watch things that make you smile (comedies) or dramas that offer some escape. Shows that challenge your brain (game shows) can also be helpful.
If you are still struggling, seek help. There are many options nowadays including telehealth and in-person services. Pandemic and election stressors are very real, and there is help available.
If you need additional support, please call 855-KET-WELL and start to feel better today!
Dr. Ellen Diamond is the Clinical Psychologist for Ketamine Wellness Centers