One of the most challenging aspects of surviving the pandemic has been to protect our mental health and feelings of well-being. We may be separated from family and unable to be with loved ones regularly. We may be working from home and unable to see and engage with colleagues and coworkers in person. Many activities we took for granted prior to the pandemic may now seem too risky. Further, even with the prospect that vaccines will be available at some point, it will still be some time before they become available to us all.
All of these factors can combine to tax our emotional reserves and leave us feeling empty and deflated. This condition is often experienced in symptoms such as frequent periods of tiredness, feelings of separation or loneliness, and episodes of frustration and disappointment. The symptoms may be mild or more intense, but they can be signs that our emotional reserves need to be replenished.
Of course, when the pandemic is over and the danger of the virus has passed, some of the causes will disappear. However, the need to remain attentive to the state of our emotional well-being will remain important. Fortunately, there are a number of actions we can take to ensure our emotional reserves remain at a comfortable level whether we are facing unusual challenges or just wanting to feel connected and emotionally healthy. We might think of these as “prescriptions” we can follow to maintain a healthy emotional state. Follow these suggestions and you will be amazed at how well your emotions respond.
- At least once this week and every week after, do something for someone without being asked or expected. Even better, do something the person can’t do or would have difficulty doing themselves. Focus on how good you are feeling afterward, not on whether you have been thanked. Repeat weekly as needed.
- Spend at least a half-hour of quality time with someone close to you. Family members, close friends, and neighbors are good options. Just be sure to be fully present and engaged. The time of day when you engage in this activity is less important than its regularity. Repeat daily, if possible.
- Each day for the next week, identify at least one important aspect of your life for which you are grateful. Take time to reflect on its importance and how your life would be without it. By the end of the week, you will have the beginning of a habit. Continue regularly for best results.
- Set aside time on at least three days this week to take a walk or drive to an area that you enjoy and gives you peace. It matters less that you experience the same place or explore new areas than whether you focus on and appreciate the experience. Repeat this activity regularly for best results.
- Initiate a connection with at least one new person or neglected acquaintance this week. The connection may be virtual or in person. At first, this activity may require some discipline to engage with more people around you. Just be alert to possibilities. Give preference to people you find interesting and pleasant to engage. Repeating weekly will ensure a large and interesting group of people with whom you enjoy connecting.
- At least once this week take some time to formulate a plan to do something you will look forward to. It might be something you can do during the pandemic, or an activity or trip in which you might engage once COVID is behind us. Next week, add details to or expand the plan, or you might begin construction of another plan. Before you know it, you will have more to look forward to than you can yet imagine.
It may seem as though doing all of these prescriptions would result in overload. Still, the more you follow these prescriptions, the better you will feel. In reality, you will likely find that they are more fulfilling than they will be overloading and finding time will be less of a challenge than you think. On the other hand, engaging in all of these activities will leave less time to feel lonely, discouraged, and frustrated.