Brianna Johnson

It’s a weird time in the world. The newness of “life during a pandemic” has passed. Yet, we’re still living IN a pandemic and dealing with the constraints of such. Many have accepted the reality of our “new normal” and that masks and social distancing are now part of our daily routine. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily make doing those things easier, though, especially when the question on most of our minds is when such practices, and the prevalence of the virus, will become a memory.

I’m an optimist by nature and am thankful to have maintained a fairly positive perspective and demeanor throughout the pandemic. Even so, there are times when it falters. The inability to do many of our regular activities “normally,” or to do some of our activities at all, can become discouraging. Less in-person socializing means feelings of isolation and loneliness can creep in. Limiting public outings can lead to feeling house-bound and “trapped.” Not knowing what to expect or when the virus will pass can leave many feeling powerless. These emotions combined with other factors are taking a toll on our collective mental health.

I am passionate about health and wellness. So much so that I have had a great time launching and running a blog and website this past year with my mom, who is a personal trainer and wellness coach, called Go Live Abundance (as in “Go create and live your sense of abundance”). We share blogs, recipes, news and services around health and wellness. I wanted to bring some of these ideas to our ConvergenceCoaching readers and share what I’m doing to support my own mental health during the pandemic. Of these 12 ideas to support mental health, you might pick one, or a few, to try and see if they help you feel happier and more positive.

During the pandemic, I have been:

    1. Finding creative ways to do things I enjoyed doing pre-COVID. My mom and I have been going country- and line-dancing once a week for the past seven years. It’s been over four months since we’ve gone and we miss it a lot! Sometimes when we’re together, we’ll play the songs of our favorite line dances and do them at home. Sometimes we look up new line dances to learn on YouTube. My husband and I love to travel, as many others do. While we didn’t go on any trips this spring or summer, we have been recreating delicious meals from past vacations at home! Sometimes the meal turns out to be a bust, but more often, it turns out to be as good, or even better, than our memory. I also love going to happy hour. Now, I might buy the ingredients for an epic charcuterie board or a fun appetizer and we’ll have our own happy hour at home with homemade craft cocktails. Are there activities that you can’t do right now that you could create a modified version of at home? It becomes really fun to think of new, creative ways to do familiar things!
    1. Connecting with others. I am so thankful to be experiencing the pandemic in 2020 when we have technology that allow us to see one another. FaceTime and Zoom have been lifesavers for helping me feel connected to loved ones and friends near and far. Zoom in particular has allowed us to have big-group get togethers to celebrate birthdays, baby showers or just hang out. Sometimes we play games together and other times, we just talk. Something I’d still like to do is organize a couple’s virtual wine or cheese tasting, or book a virtual pasta making class! If you were used to a weekly coffee or happy hour ritual with friends, continue it over Zoom. Or use FaceTime or other video chat platforms to talk to friends and family that you would normally just call. It really helps.
    1. Eating a nutritious diet. Since immune health is more important than ever, I’ve been focused on limiting sugar and junk foods in my diet. Plus, nutrition directly impacts our mental health. The brain uses more energy than any other organ in the body. Everything we’re eating has a direct impact on our brain and can affect things like memory, mood, learning and problem-solving ability. High quality fats support cognitive function, so I’ve been eating plenty of fatty fish (wild salmon and sardines), extra virgin olive oil, avocados, grass-fed beef and grass-fed butter. I strongly believe that a healthy diet contributes to better moods. Even though the delicious recipes on my Instagram feed are tempting, I remind myself that their satisfaction is short-lived and focus on a high-quality meal that I can attempt instead.
    1. Identifying and avoiding things that stress me out, or cause me anxiety. I stopped watching the news entirely in mid-March (I watched very little already, but would turn on The Today Show in the mornings). The constant stream of negative-oriented, fear- or hysteria-inducing information took too much of a toll on my mental clarity. I started checking fact-based sources for updates on coronavirus every couple days. That way, I have the latest information to consider for any public outings.
    1. Learning new skills (or starting a new hobby). When I’m not working or spending time with my family, my passion project (Go Live Abundance) has been keeping me busy. I’ve been taking courses on infant well-being and breastfeeding so that I can grow my expertise in these areas and help other mothers. Learning something new challenges your brain, keeps you motivated and growing, and keeps you busy! What new skill or hobby have you always wanted to pursue? Now is a perfect time!
    1. Improving my cooking abilities. I love to cook and bake. With so much opportunity to cook at home lately, I’ve been learning some new tricks in the kitchen and experimenting with new cuisines. Cooking at home is a lot more fun when the food ends up tasting delicious. There are countless online resources to help with cooking skills – go check some out and make something fun!
    1. Getting outside. Nature has therapeutic effects and I try to take advantage of this as often as possible. In Japan, they even have a name for the practice of spending time outside in the forest that translates to “forest bathing” in English. Plus, natural light helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which leads to better sleep. You don’t have to have a forest or trees nearby to benefit – even sitting on your porch or taking a 15-minute walk helps! Getting outside also helps alleviate feelings of being house-bound.
    1. Moving my body. Incorporating movement throughout my day helps me feel energized, improves my mood and relieves stress when needed. When I can, I do my physical activity outside which helps me achieve #7!
    1. Maintaining boundaries. I’ve worked from home for nearly 8 years and am no stranger to having work slip into personal time, which ends up feeling like you never shut work off. It helps to identify your “work time” and your “me time” and try to maintain those boundaries. Sometimes, you may have to flex them, but that’s okay when you feel a sense of separation other times.
    1. Planning. I mean this in a couple senses. I plan our meals every week and the associated grocery list and meal prep needs. I plan our vacations. I love talking and planning with my husband about the things we want to do someday, even if we don’t know when they will be. I think planning during this time is especially important. It’s fun and helpful to have things to look forward to. Even if you can’t travel right now, maybe you can start researching and planning an itinerary you WILL take once you can. Planning is also helpful for daily life. I’m a lot less frenzied when I know what meals I’m making and when, rather than deciding spontaneously. It also helps me meet my nutrition goals.
    1. Acknowledging my feelings and shifting my perspective as needed. When I feel sad or upset about the things outside my control during this pandemic, I don’t try to push them away or ignore them. I acknowledge and sit with them. Sometimes I write them down and sometimes I vent to a loved one or friend. After I’ve acknowledged my feelings, I am then able to regain my power and choose a more positive perspective. I remind myself that we are extremely blessed during this pandemic. We may be spending more time in our homes than before, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. Many of us were trying to do too much and not resting enough, and it was silently hurting our health. Plus, we’re at home with so many luxuries – technology to entertain us and connect us with others, air conditioning and heat, appliances to cook our own food, music that can be streamed, Internet for browsing and online shopping, and more. I remind myself that I may not be able to do all the things I want or used to do, but I can do most of them still in some fashion, and others I’ll be able to do again one day.
    1. Practicing gratitude and mindfulness every morning and night (and any time in between that I can!). Related to #11, even though it can be a challenging time, we have a lot to be thankful for. Every day, I am thankful for my health and that of my family, friends and colleagues. Every day, I am grateful to be alive! I am grateful to have the freedom to choose my thoughts and to pursue so many possibilities for fun and growth. When you find yourself stressed, write down or mentally list three things that you are grateful for. If that was too easy, try to count to ten, or fifty!

I want to emerge from this pandemic a better, stronger person. For me, that means doing my best to set intentions and goals, to focus on my physical and mental health and to deepen my relationships with others. It also means not being too hard on myself when negative emotions creep in, or things become more challenging, at any given time.

How do you want to look back on your time during the pandemic? I encourage you to think about that answer. Then, pick a few of these twelve strategies to help you maintain the optimal mindset for bringing that intention to life. And, let us know how it’s going for you, or what other strategies you’re using!

Warm regards,

Brianna