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Tools for Prioritizing Your Mental Health in a Pandemic

By Jessica Greeley, Masters of Arts in Psychology Candidate

We’re in the middle of uncertain times, with circumstances outside of our control—so I want to check in with you. Close your eyes, how do you feel? How does your body feel? Is your mind wandering? Are your muscles tense? Those physical feelings, fears, worries, and concerns are all valid. Do not prevent yourself from feeling, both positive and negative. Do not prevent those around you from feeling, even if their feelings vary from your own. We all experience and express ourselves in different ways—all of these are okay. Remember, too, how we are all in this together. 

“Even the weak become strong when they are united.” – Friedrich von Schiller

When the news headlines become too much, turn it off. Remember, we may not be able to control what is going on in the world, but we can control our response to it. Worry is inevitable and normal, but take notice if it becomes dysfunctional: is it interfering with your day, preventing you from carrying on with your everyday responsibilities? When you notice this, shift your focus to something within your control. Close your eyes and tune into your breath, stretch or do a home workout, cook a meal you’ll enjoy, or call someone you trust. Find what works for you—the point is to redirect the energy expended on worrying toward something productive and positive.

“If you conquer yourself, then you conquer the world.” ― Paulo Coelho, Aleph

Practicing gratitude is another great tool for combatting uncontrollable worry. You can do this in your head or you can jot these thoughts down in a journal. Actively focusing on things in your life that you are grateful for not only redirects your attention from something negative to something positive but has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, but also boost mood and immune system function, and improve your sleep. Being grateful doesn’t mean ignoring or minimizing the hardships in your life, rather its purpose is to bring your attention to the good, reframing your perspective on your life, particularly the pieces within your control. 

“Enjoy the little things. For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

Set aside five minutes to ask yourself how you’re feeling today. However you feel is valid. Our perception is our reality. Know too that we have the power to influence our perception. Try to find the good in each day. On the days when that feels too hard, bring your attention to the people and the things that matter to you most. 

What are you grateful for today?