It’s hard out here these days, obviously, and we’re all probably coping in less-than-healthy ways. Whether you’re spending half of your work day on TikTok, can’t remember the last time you wore real pants, or haven’t eaten a vegetable in weeks, you might not be taking the best care of yourself. With all of the additional, unprecedented stressors in our lives right now, it is especially important to watch out for your mental health. Instead of airing out your frustration on Twitter or switching from cream to bourbon in your morning coffee, there are healthy steps you can take to make your wellbeing a priority. We consulted a few wellness experts about common unhealthy coping habits, and better ways to deal with your stress.
Binging. On. Everything.
You know the feeling when you blink, then suddenly you’ve been on Twitter for an hour, finished half a season of Schitt’s Creek, and eaten an entire bag of Skinny Pop? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there, especially recently. These habits make perfect sense right now, says Yael Shy of meditation distribution platform Pause + Purpose, since when you’re stuck inside, “you may want to consume whatever there is to consume so that you don’t have to think about the uncertainty, difficulty, anxiety, and other difficult emotions swirling in the air right now.” RT. While binging on your vice of choice can bring temporary comfort, though, it won’t bring you lasting relief. Shy suggests that when you feel the urge to binge, first, “SLOW DOWN. Pause. Take a breath,” as she explains, “Addiction feeds off mindless behavior.” Even if you do eventually decide to binge, she says, “taking a pause before you do just reminds you that you have agency over your body, your decisions, and your time.”
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Additionally, Shy recommends getting to the root of your impulse to binge: is it loneliness? Anxiety? Grief? Since, she explains, “we make behavior changes not by berating ourselves, but by accepting and loving our underlying impulses,” recognizing what sparks you to binge in the first place is a necessary step. If you can’t beat your urges, that’s okay, but try to go in with open eyes. If you’re about to embark on a social media binge, Shy recommends setting a timer so you won’t be scrolling forever, and to actually stop when the timer goes off. Or, if you’re eating, she says, “eat really slowly and mindfully, tasting each bite. Try to remove the ‘mindless’ nature of the activity and replace it with some ‘mindfulness.’ It will undoubtedly transform your experience.” Getting a handle on the behaviors that make you feel out of control can be extremely helpful in adjusting to the changing times.
This is a hard one. When you feel as though someone has ~wronged~ you, it can be difficult to simply forgive and forget. However, holding onto feelings of resentment does not serve anyone in the long run. Getting over a grudge, Paula Pavlova, a yoga teacher and wellness educator and founder of Pavlova Wellness, says, “often starts with authentic conversations, apologies, and true forgiveness, no matter how challenging it might be.” While grinning and bearing it can suck, “Once resolved and released, you will notice the difference. You might never agree, but you can forgive. And forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for you to remember your peace and self-worth,” she reflects. If you’re as stubborn as me, this is easier said than done. Pavlova suggests saying to yourself, “‘I am feeling (fill in the emotion) about x, y, z AND I am okay. I can handle this.’” If you need to cry, scream, laugh, write, or dance? Do it, as long as the discussion—whether it’s with yourself or the person you are having issues with—remains constructive rather than destructive. TL;DR: as RHONY’s Dorinda Medley says (and often forgets, but we’ll forgive her), “say what you mean but don’t say it mean.”
It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere
We’ve been in quarantine for nearly six months, so you’re probably making way more Drizly orders than you used to. While the “Five O’Clock Somewhere” rule may be fine for the occasional brunch mimosa or drink by the pool, it can be a harmful mentality when you’re stuck at home 24/7. According to Dr. Cassie Majestic of Dr. Majestic, a blog where she writes about wellness and her work as an Emergency Physician, those who have significantly increased their alcohol consumption recently are likely doing so “due to boredom, depression, or as a coping mechanism.” Like, duh.
But she says that while drinking may make you “feel more relaxed and happy initially,” Majestic recommends keeping the drinks to a minimum, because those upping effects are only temporary. She also advises limiting the amount of alcohol that you keep in your home, so there is a barrier to drinking in excess. Kind of a buzzkill, but she’s probably right. Instead of turning to your trusty glass of red, Majestic suggests “keeping yourself busy with other projects, goals, or interactions.” For instance, you could redesign your room, plan a socially distanced outing with friends, or craft an itinerary for your first trip post-quarantine. Plus, we all know the hangover hits way worse in quarantine.
While the occasional b*tch session is perfectly natural, at a certain point, complaining too much about something just makes you more aggravated than you were to begin with. Instead of focusing on any unwanted parts of your life, “manifest the things that you do want or like by talking MORE about them,” advises Juliet Okonkwo of Pure Skin & Scalp, a salon that provides therapeutic hair and scalp treatments. This will help you become more in control of your emotions, and it allows you to reframe your outlook on life in a healthier way and “celebrate the amazing things that you used to not give the time of day,” says Okonkwo, like “nature, sounds of birds chirping, plants and trees, a simple smile or hug from a loved one…These are BIG things that are worth celebrating, but we tend to take them for granted.” In the words of Hamilton’s Aaron Burr, “Talk less. Smile more.”
Too Much Introversion
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Lockdown is a great excuse to cancel plans, and with so much information and controversy swirling around in the world right now, it’s reasonable that you might feel like cutting out social interaction altogether, says Majestic. However, too much isolation can lead to depression and anxiety, so it’s important to recharge your social interaction battery every so often. Yes, that means getting off the couch every once in a while! Majestic recommends keeping your loved ones close, as ”they can really help you forget about some of the negativity in the world by bringing other topics into your conversation and life. I like to recommend keeping a friend circle small these days. It helps to avoid controversy and anxiety.” And don’t let social distancing measures let you forget about therapy—many therapists are currently holding virtual sessions. If you’ve never been to therapy but have been considering trying it, now is a great time to start. Opening up about your feelings is obviously never easy, but doing so from the comfort of your own home can help the start of your mental health journey feel safer and more secure.
Lack Of Structure
If you’re WFH, going about your daily tasks can feel a bit like freestyling these days. Having a more flexible schedule and to-do list, along with limited human interaction, “can prove challenging for your mind and body,” Majestic says. If you’re in charge, she suggests scheduling a regular Zoom lunch meeting with your team. You never thought you’d miss the weekly Bachelor chat you had with Brenda over mid-morning coffee, but here you are missing her opinions on Pilot Pete. As Majestic says, “Those little daily human interactions in an office or work space have huge positive effects,” so any way you can connect with your team will be beneficial, even if you’re not face-to-face. Additionally, Majestic recommends making yourself a schedule to structure your work day. “Consider using an old school planner since everything involves technology these days,” she says, “and get out of those sweats! Then you can look forward to putting them back on when your work day is finished.” (Ok, call me out.)
people who post their at-home desk setups need to chill. like I lie in bed all day with my laptop on my chest, what about it?
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) August 19, 2020
Another way to add more structure into your day is creating a set workout routine. Just because most gyms are closed does not mean that you have to give up on exercise. “Even if you don’t have a Peloton or weights at home,” Majestic says, “there are SO many workouts to choose from on YouTube or Instagram. HIIT workouts are my favorite and you often don’t need any equipment.” And, if nothing else, she suggests that you “get outside for a walk and keep your body moving throughout the day in short intervals.”
The past few months have not been easy, and it is super important to give yourself some grace if you’ve fallen out of your normal routines or behaviors. By identifying things you want to change and making steps to do so, you can pull a Rachael Leigh Cook in She’s All That and come out of quarantine even better than before!
Images: mariakray / Shutterstock; lexniko, dietstartstomorrow / Instagram; betchesluvthis / Twitter