Before the pandemic hit, I thought I would never find out what it’s like to struggle with being mentally and emotionally fit. When the world went into lockdown, I was excited for the life change at first – I was going to switch to home exercises, improve my skills, and finally learn how to cook.
But I was wrong. My first week into lockdown was more or less typical. Then, I started feeling like my love for life is abandoning me slowly but surely. I thought this feeling would pass, but after one month, it got worse – anxiety and panic attacks never left me alone.
That’s when I was diagnosed with depression. But even though it was in a mild form, I couldn’t understand how and why it happened to me until I saw the CDC statistics – over 50% of Americans said they started struggling with anxiety and PTSD because of the pandemic.
And that’s when it hit me – I have to find ways out of this vicious circle. Through trial and error, therapy, and after reading a lot of research, I discovered five ways to be more mentally and emotionally fit during difficult times.
Let me share my findings with you.
5 Beneficial Ways To Be Mentally & Emotionally Fit
1. Get off Your Couch and Move
Yes, I know, the world is mostly still in lockdown mode, gyms are closed, and it is dangerous to go outside. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do some exercises in the comfort of your own home.
Sport is one of the main remedies against stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, aerobic activities decrease the sense of tension, improve self-esteem, and stabilize mood.
But what if you don’t like aerobics?
Then do sports that you enjoy! It doesn’t matter how you move your body – the point is to increase your physical activity as much as you can. Dancing, running on a treadmill, power-lifting (if you have the tools), or simple push-ups and squats – do whatever you like and what your body is comfortable with.
2. Explore Mindful Meditation
Over the past few years, you might have noticed something that I call a mindfulness boom – everybody started talking about the importance of meditation and mindful living. Oprah even shared her morning meditation routine on her YouTube channel.
But what does science says about the impact of meditation on mental wellness?
One study I found claims that meditation is often used in psychiatry and psychopathology as an additional treatment method. According to this study, meditation improves:
- perceptual receptivity
This study says that meditation, if practiced regularly, can also stabilize your mood, thus making you more emotionally fit.
How should you meditate?
There is no right or wrong here. Don’t use the “traditional” way of meditating, where you cross your legs and repeat a mantra all over again if you find that it’s not right for you.
Mindful meditation is about catching yourself in the moment, recognizing how you feel, understand the cause of your emotions, and then letting the situation go. This is a great way to develop a coping mechanism to help reduce stress.
3. Learn a Foreign Language
When the pandemic started, learning a new language was on my list of exciting things to do. But because I fell into a constant anxiety mode, I didn’t start learning a foreign language when I planned. But once I got to it, I realized the tremendous therapeutic effect it had on me.
There is no direct impact of foreign language learning on anxiety, stress, or mood. But it can help reduce the risk of serious mental illnesses in the long run.
For example, one study says being bilingual delays the onset of Alzheimer’s – learning a foreign language enhances cognitive reserve, meaning that your memory will become more flexible as you jump from one language to another.
So, where should you start with learning a foreign language?
Think about what country you would like to visit after the pandemic is over. If it’s France, then start learning French step-by-step – get to know French sounds, pronunciation, as well as basic words and phrases.
The goal is to start small. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too much information. But try to make your foreign language learning consistent – it’s the only way to reach tangible results.
4. Get Some Sunshine
Being incarcerated at home means you cannot go outside and enjoy the sunshine. And when your body doesn’t get enough sunshine, it becomes more fragile. The lack of sun can also cause depression.
This is not an empty claim – there is a proven connection between vitamin D and mental illnesses. According to a report, the treatment for major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia involves vitamin D. Besides, according to this report, 58% of people with mild Alzheimer’s have abnormally low Vitamin D levels.
So, work out a way to get some sunshine every day. You don’t have to go outside – just open a window, sit in front of it for some time, or go to your balcony. And if you live in a region where sunshine is quite rare, consult your physician about taking vitamin D pills but check if you’re deficient first.
5. Adopt an Animal or Try Gardening
Finally, if you feel like you’re going down a slippery slope of stress and anxiety, the best treatment is to take care of someone or something. As I live by myself, I decided to adopt a cat. Now a wonderful bundle of joy named Luna brings me happiness every day.
How do pets help us become mentally and emotionally fit?
Research shows that animals are amazing stress relievers. It’s reported that interactions with animals increase oxytocin – the hormone of love and happiness. Besides, the act of taking care of someone already recalibrates your brain, putting it into a problem-solving mode. As a result, you get distracted from being too much in your head.
Adopting an animal was suggested to me by my therapist, and after a month of being with my pet, I felt a significant improvement in my mood. Of course, it’s an enormous responsibility, but I’ve learned that whenever pets are around, you can’t have negative thoughts.
What if you can’t have pets?
If your landlord doesn’t allow animals or you have pet allergies, try gardening. It has the same positive effects on your mental health and mood – studies have shown that simply looking at plants already reduces stress, anger, fear, and sadness. It all decreases blood pressure.
So, no matter whether it’s animals or gardening, get yourself into one of these activities. Very soon, you’ll notice that you’re feeling less stressed and overwhelmed.
Final Words: Take Care of Yourself
All the points I’ve mentioned today are about being aware of your physical and emotional state and treating yourself well. After all, self-love is the best remedy.
So, start your self-care journey by doing some sports, trying meditation, learning a new language, adopting an animal, or gardening. It’s also a great idea to check if you’re vitamin D deficient – it can have a significant impact on mood.
At the end of the day, choose the practice that works best for you. Listen to your body and become best friends with it. Then you will feel that you’re becoming more mentally and emotionally fit.