What to do When the World Feels Out of Your Control
Well, we’ve officially hit the one year mark of COVID-19 bringing us an unexpected chapter of change. You may reflect back on this time last year and remember barren grocery store shelves and anxiety-ridden news anchors. You also may recall feelings of uncertainty and fear that accompanied the global pandemic… feelings that may still be present today. While hope is certainly on the horizon, COVID continues to keep us masked up and socially distant.
It may come as no surprise that mental health implications from COVID have increased exponentially. According to one study, 41% of American adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression in January 2021, compared to 11% who reported symptoms in January of 2019. Another survey showed about 22% had scores indicating symptoms of clinical depression; a large jump from the 13% of estimated youth depression in China.
There is no doubt this past year has come with challenges for us all, and perhaps made us feel “out of control” in the current situation. However, while it is easy to dwell on what you can’t control, there are many things you can control that can provide immediate ease to your mental state! Try these simple (and controllable) tips to ward off feelings of depression and anxiety during this turbulent time.
- Get outside.
Research shows that Vitamin D plays a significant role in mood function, making sunshine a natural antidepressant! Getting outside for just ten minutes a day can have a massive impact on your mental state. Try getting up and out first thing in the morning for a walk or jog around the neighborhood. This habit can help get your day started on the right note and set you up for success.
- Connect with others (COVID edition).
Social connection is vital for maintaining a healthy mindset. Humans have an instinctual need to bond with others, just as pack animals do. Although COVID has kept us isolated and limited our physical connection with others, there are plenty of ways to maintain healthy connections with loved ones. For example, catch up with a good friend over Zoom, or ask your neighbor to join you for a socially distanced walk! To read more on the power of connection, check out our blog here.
- Eat nourishing foods.
Did you know that you can boost your mood with food? The saying “we are what we eat” takes on a new meaning when you discover how dietary nutrients can play a role in your mental health. For example, the neurotransmitter tryptophan (found in turkey, nuts, salmon, spinach and eggs) is an important building block of serotonin. In fact, over 90% of serotonin is produced in your gut, making diet a vital component in mood stability.
- Move your body.
When in doubt, move it out! Jokes aside, exercising is key to flushing stagnant energy out of your body and increasing blood flow. If you are in school, or working a desk job (whether in the office or at home), you may find yourself stuck at a computer for multiple hours at a time. Try to prioritize taking small movement breaks throughout the day (stretching or mini walks work perfectly) and making time for a run or yoga flow after work.
- Focus on the little wins.
When in a state of anxiety or depression, it becomes easy to focus on the negative. In these periods especially, it is imperative to acknowledge even the smallest wins. For example, getting out to the grocery store (for a selection of mood boosting foods!) is a small task that should be celebrated. When you begin to focus on the good (even if the “good” seems trivial), more positivity will come into your world.
Meditation is a key tool for noticing your thoughts without judgement. When meditating, the aim is not to suppress negative thoughts, but to simply observe what comes to the surface. Bringing attention to these thoughts can provide powerful clues to the roots of your suffering, and aid in an effective healing process. This practice can take on many different forms such as breath or walking meditation. Sitting and following your breath is a quick way to bring you back into your body when feelings of anxiety arise.
- Remember you are not alone.
Especially in times of limited social contact, it may feel as if you are alone in your challenges. However, this is far from the truth. In fact, odds are many people are in a very similar position (remember the COVID anxiety and depression statistics stated earlier!). It’s also important to remember that social media is not reality, but a filtered version of other’s lives. Comparisons can be dangerous, especially when in a fragile mental state. If you are currently experiencing depressed or anxious feelings, try temporarily deactivating your social media and instead calling a loving friend or family member.
- Pick up a new hobby.
Ever heard of the statement “if you change nothing, nothing will change?” In order to get to a healthier place, you must change something. This can look like ridding yourself of a bad habit, or adding something positive to your life. Hobbies can act as healthy distractions when feeling “off,” and can be a constructive addition to your routine. Always wanted to give your hand at painting or crocheting? Now may be the perfect time. Check out our post on Tips to Form Healthy Habits to help get you off on the right foot.
- Ask for help.
If you only take one point away from this post, let it be this one. Asking for help is not just important, but crucial to improving mental health. You are simply not meant to walk this path alone, and have an abundance of resources (even if you feel lonely). We are happy to connect you with a licensed online therapist dedicated to you and your specific story today. If you feel you or a loved one is in a dangerous state, don’t hesitate to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
You see? There is more in your control than you may realize, even in times of COVID. If you are experiencing feelings of overwhelm, anxiety or depression, we encourage you to print out this list and read it over when the world feels too heavy.