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
These days, my typical morning routine includes Googling whether it’s safe to venture outside today and if there are COVID-19 cases on the rise, followed by how much closer we are to discovering if we’ve found a vaccine, and finally, scouring articles to figure out if there are any long-term consequences of using so much hand sanitizer. And then before I know it, I’m seeking out more of this depressing and potentially negative info, even though I know it’s not helping with my sanity. Apparently, there’s even a term to describe this kind of behavior: doomscrolling. Merriam-Webster defines doomscrolling as “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing.” While I truly believe that knowledge is power, too much of anything can be detrimental to one’s health. In fact, going overboard with this kind of activity can have negative consequences on one’s mental and physical well-being, especially in these scary times.
As tempting as it may be to constantly hit refresh, we don’t have to stay stuck in this endless cycle of terror and misery. There is a way out, and that’s to cultivate an awareness of this type of toxic behavior and make a conscious decision to press the pause button on all the craziness that surrounds us. Betches spoke with Dr. Eudene Harry, Medical Director for Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center, and Dr. Braulio Mariano Mejia, Medical Director of The Palm Beach Institute, specializing in Addiction Medicine for insight into what’s going on with our minds and bodies. They shined some light on what to do when the line between staying informed and ruining your mental health becomes blurred and offered us some tactics on how to set healthy boundaries between us and the news.
How To Recognize When The News Is Making Us Feel Bad
It can be difficult to attribute our emotions directly to the news—oftentimes we’ll think our negative feelings are caused by another trigger. While some types of news can conjure obvious and overt reactions, other times, the feelings can be subtle, like a slow and steady burn. Dr. Harry says that it’s important to check in with yourself frequently. She says, “ask yourself if you felt bad after watching the news. Did you feel motivated to act or did it leave you feeling drained and paralyzed? Are you feeling depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, helpless or apathetic? Is your heart racing? Does breathing feel shallow, fast and not enough?” These are the sorts of physiological cues she says you should pay attention to.
Additionally, Dr. Mariano Mejia says that there are behavioral and physical attributes that could be indicative of your emotional upheaval: “ask yourself, ‘have I been alienating my loved ones?’ ‘Have I been isolating from those I care about?’ ‘Have I been neglecting my family?’ ‘Have I been slacking at work?’ ‘Have I been having difficulty sleeping?’ ‘Has there been a change in my libido/sexual interest?’ Have there been any recent weight fluctuations?’” All of this matters and it’s important to take time for yourself to answer these questions honestly. It’s like going through your own personal mental checklist (it may also help to run through this aloud or write it down). If you’re answering yes to any of these questions, both doctors advise that you should regroup and recharge, stat.
Actually, It’s About Introspection
Dr. Mariano Mejia says that the first thing to understand about doomscrolling is that it speaks to our human nature more than anything else. “This phenomenon is more about the need to have some introspection. It’s about recognizing the need to stop for a second and ask yourself if repetitive news (fake or not) is necessary to get you emotionally or professionally where you want to be.”
The most important thing here is to determine whether this information will make a difference in the comfort of your professional and personal life. If not, you can do without this unhelpful stimuli. Dr. Mariano Mejia points out that we as humans have a tendency to obsess over minute things in our lives and that “in order to reduce our anxiety we act on these obsessions, which is a compulsion. In this instance, this compulsive behavior to turn to the media/news evolves into a negative pattern, thus creating a temporary relief.” However, if this tendency is left unaddressed, he says that it could lead to negative consequences.
The good news is that conversely, with this same ability, you can train your brain to be a more healthy and balanced one, simply by actively recognizing that you have the power and opportunity to step away from anything you deem to be detrimental to your health. “Introspection is more than simply taking a break. It requires you to stop, evaluate your conscious thoughts and feelings,” Dr. Mariano Mejia remarks. “This process allows you to look at yourself in order to determine what is most important in your life.” In a nutshell, think of it as an empowered “you do you” sentiment.
Why You Have All Of These Feels
Dr. Harry says, “your body and mind are being overwhelmed, and as a result, it is constantly activating the stress response system over and over again, continuously flooding the mind and the body with stress hormones.” She references clinical studies from Harvard and the National Library of Medicine in which voluntary participants were shown stress-inducing/upsetting pictures and videos. Though they were not actually subjected to the turmoil itself, ultimately, viewing upsetting material resulted in the body exhibiting the same level of heightened stress and trauma. She surmised from these studies that if these feelings are left to fester, it can result in an increased risk of developing psychological trauma, anxiety disorders, depression and other psychological conditions—as well as physical ailments such as heart disease and diabetes.
Ok, So I Feel Like Sh*t—How Do I Make It Better?
Say it with me: SELF-CARE. It’s not just some buzzword we see hashtagged to death on Instagram, but a real and positive force that can truly help with our health and wellness if we embrace it.
sometimes self care is an everything bagel
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) May 16, 2020
Create A Routine That Works For You
Dr. Mariano Mejia says that this can include proper hygiene, good nutrition, regular exercise, and healthy social interactions. Examples of healthy social interactions include interactions that limit exposure to negative people, maintaining positive conversations, and setting boundaries with your peers.
Quality Over Quantity
Dr. Harry says to rely on a trusted news source and consume it for 10 to 20 minutes a day to gather the highlights. Additionally, Dr. Mariano Mejia says that when you do seek out information, stick to factual content rather than opinion-based or emotionally biased stories. “A reliable source such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) would be recommended, but on a limited basis,” he explains. “Official information as it changes and advances on the studies of the novel coronavirus will not take place minute to minute or even hourly,” so there’s no need to obsessively hit that refresh button. He says you can also control how you remain informed by simply consulting your medical professional/family physician. Additionally, you can consider using free resources, such as Nurses On-Call.
Dr. Harry advises against starting and ending the day with your news (lol, I suppose I’m doing this wrong then). She says, “you want to set (an optimistic) tone for your day. Starting it with potentially startling content gives you no time to prepare how to approach your day. As a result, you have immediately engaged your stress and vigilance systems that can leave you feeling edgy, jumpy, and anxious all day.”
Get Your Beauty Rest
This is related to timing and is why we shouldn’t be inundating our brains with news before going to bed at night or when we get up in the morning. “Sleep is incredibly important; however, it will be difficult to get sound slumber if you’ve just flooded your brain with potentially traumatizing information and events,” says Dr. Harry. It can be a lot to process and can leave you tossing and turning all night. She adds, “it’s also another sure-fire way to increase your risk of inflammation and illness.”
Unplug And Shut Down All The Things
The world can be a Debbie Downer sometimes, so if you want to chill out for the day and decompress, absolutely go for it. “That’s completely okay—take even a few days and go offline from all media to regain your equilibrium. No one knows how you are feeling but you. So find out what works for you,” offers Dr. Harry.
You Are Not Alone
Through these challenging times, it’s understandable to seek out answers and information to decrease feelings of anxiety and to feel more comforted. However, you don’t have to go it alone: “don’t hesitate to seek out support. If you are still having difficulties and can’t seem to break free or reduce the negative impact on your own, you may benefit from seeking the assistance of a trained and qualified mental health professional,” says Dr. Mariano Mejia.
Peace And Pleasure
Yeah, we’ve all been baking to reduce the stress, but it keeps us cooped up inside. Dr. Harry says that as an alternative, why not consider simply getting outside (safely) for an easy means of decompression? “This may be a nature walk, time with friends via a social distancing/park gathering, meditating, yoga/breathing deeply, and art (painting/pottery), etc.” It’s about actively distancing yourself from the negative cycle and instead, doing something that brings you peace and a sense of calmness. “More importantly, these activities give your body the chance to recover and reset,” she explains.
Doomscrolling may sound like some apocalyptic reckoning, but just remember that ultimately, you have the power to wield control over your thoughts and feelings. We may all be susceptible to this zombie-like trance of doomscrolling, but all it takes is a gentle reminder to pull ourselves out of this rut, turn off our smart devices and the news, and reconnect with elements of our humanity that fill us with joy. We got this.
Images: Bongkarn Thanyakij / Pexels; Chrishell Stause / Instagram; Diet Starts Tomorrow / Instagram (2); Tenor; Katy Perry / Twitter
Not gonna lie, the stars are trying to f*ck us over this week. The Sun has squared Uranus and it’s turning everyone into assh*les. (Assh*les…Uranus…Get it??) Time to load up de-stress meditations from the mindfulness app of your choice because this week you’re going to need it. At least Mercury goes out of retrograde on Wednesday. TG for small miracles.
Maybe you don’t need to keep it quite so 100 this week, Aries. Not saying you shouldn’t speak your mind, but there’s a value to shutting the f*ck up every once in a while, and the stars are aligned for you to put your foot in your mouth if you’re not careful. Maybe try running any angry texts by your one nice friend for he next week or so?
People are testing you this week, Taurus, but don’t lose your cool. Before losing your sh*t on a coworker for another meeting that could have been an email, take a breath and think, “do I really need to go apesh*t right now?” If the answer is no, take a moment to scream in the bathroom, then return to work. If the answer is yes, then go awffff queen. You earned it!
Typically nothing phases you, Gemini, but not this week. The time for keeping sh*t to yourself is over and it’s finally time to let know how you feel, in the nicest way possible of course. Save the passive-aggressive emails for another day and address any issues you have head-on. Not only will you get what’s bothering you off your chest, but you’ll also get to look mature in the process. Win-win.
Red alert! There’s friend drama ahead! Turbulence in your friend group might cause some significant anxiety over the next few days. It’s unfortunate, but at least you know it’s coming. Whatever happens, just remember pre-school rules still apply: use your words, and always maintain your inside voice.
You’re one of the only signs actually having a good week this week, Leo, so congrats. Probably that birthday month energy. The Sun in your sign has you feeling particularly in need of some adventure and freedom, meaning a little solo journey could be just what you need. As an added bonus, you’ll avoid bad vibes from other signs, who are totally going through it right now. So sad for them.
This is it. This is the week where you finally tell that one person who has been annoying the living sh*t out of you that they’ve been annoying the living sh*t out of you. We all knew it would happen eventually. Say what you have to say, but just remember swearing is generally frowned upon on the workplace.
You’re a ticking time bomb right now, Libra, so get ready to explode. You don’t know on whom, and you don’t know when, but it is going to happen. You can minimize the chance that you’ll go crazy on a loved one by being kind of a hermit this week. Watching Netflix alone is a great way to avoid having too many brunch margs and telling Megan she can’t keep posting pics from her wedding two years ago. You can rejoin society next week when you’re not so volatile.
You’re throwing yourself into your work in a bad way, Scorpio, and it’s starting to show. Remember your friends? Remember your family? When was the last time you talked to your mom? Take a little time this week to reinstate some balance into your work-life balance before you end up like the sad lady at the beginning of a rom-com with a corner office but no one to share it with. A tragedy!
This week you’re like Beyoncé in 2002: about to break out on your own. It’s time for your very own solo career, whatever that means to you. You might be surprised to find that you enjoy your own company wayyy more than you enjoy 99.9% of other humans. Just make sure you don’t love hanging out with yourself so much you neglect the .01% of people you do actually like.
You’re not one to dive into an activity without a detailed itinerary (remind me to hit you up about planning my bachelorette), but this week you might find yourself needing a little spontaneity. Not saying you have to get in your car and “just drive,” but maybe this week you don’t have to have every moment of every day meticulously planned. Leave some time in your day for some unplanned fun. At the very least, you could end up at some very fun happy hours.
You’re in for some drama in one of your closest relationships this week, Aquarius, so don’t be surprised if you have some novel-length texts in your future. No matter what the drama brings, or who it is with, try to keep in mind that at the end of the day you do really love this person.
Tell us how you really feel, Pisces. Woah okay, not that much. You’re on edge this week (Mercury retrograde will do that to ya) but that doesn’t mean you have to take the filter completely off. The filter is there for a reason, and that reason is not getting fired. As an added bonus, you’ve been burning the candle at both ends and that stress is finally catching up with you. Exhaustion due to overwork + general irritability due to Uranus’ placement in the cosmos? Uh yeah, I’d just go ahead and call out sick right now.
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