Being Mindful of Your Mental Health in 2020
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a tough year for many. Between the virus and it's related fallout, the wildfires raging across the West, the strain of an election cycle, and the ever-present uncertainty of the future, it's no surprise that feelings of anxiety and depression are on the rise. According to an ongoing study by the University of Chicago in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, Americans reported levels of happiness are at the lowest levels of the last few decades. This reality hit home for me a few weeks ago when I decided to get help for and was consequently diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. As I continue on my own mental health journey, I wanted to share a few simple tips I've picked up that may serve you as well, whatever you might currently be experiencing.
If there was ever a time to rest, it's now. Travel has been limited, plans canceled, events altered. In many ways, it is a gift. Now is a great opportunity for spending a little more time and space on yourself and your mental health. Give yourself permission to take time in the morning to enjoy a few minutes of silence. As someone who has always prided herself on being perpetually busy, I've come to deeply enjoy my 10 minutes of meditative prayer each morning and find that it gives me greater focus throughout the day.
Check-in with friends and family.
Share what you're experiencing. As I've sought help, I've been encouraged by many friends who have helped normalize my experience by sharing their own. Not only have I found solidarity by reaching out to those I trust, but I've also found that the more I share what I'm experiencing, the less scary it feels and the braver I feel for tackling it. There is power in speaking our truths, and there is courage to be found in supportive relationships.
I know this one sounds cliche, but it's true. Our bodies are connected to our minds, and when we take care of our bodies, the benefits extend to our mental health. If you find yourself having a tough day, take a break and go for a walk. Even something as simple as getting up from your computer and marching up and down a flight of stairs can do wonders for your mood. Be mindful of the time of day as well. I like to do cardio and strength training at the beginning of the day to help myself wake up and have recently added yoga before bed to my routine. To be frank, I hate yoga. It's slow and concentrated and the complete opposite of my preferred pace of life. But as my mental health has deteriorated, I've found that doing 30 minutes of yoga before going to bed has helped me slow down my train of thought and prepare myself for a more restful sleep.
Be gentle with yourself.
I have a good friend who likes to remind me that we are very often bad at new things. The sooner we accept that trying new things will likely result in stumbling, the sooner we can let go of needing to be perfect and start to experience growth. Any time we make a change, there will be setbacks. I've had many instances of feeling a great sense of progress only to find myself regressing a few steps the next day and having to start over. Still, learning to be kinder to myself and offer myself grace and space to be imperfect has been one of my past few months' greatest gifts.
If there is anything I hope to pass on, it's this: every moment you choose to show up and be present in your life is a moment of great courage. I say this as a financial advisor and as a working mom, wife, and friend. Taking charge of your finances is brave. Sharing your difficult experiences and your resiliencies with your children is brave. Telling your friends what you're going through and asking for their support is brave. Taking care of yourself is brave. It is hard work, and it's so very worth it.
I wish you the very best of luck and success on your journey, and if you ever need to talk, you know where to find me.
“Historic Shift in Americans’ Happiness Amid Pandemic.” Chicago: NORC at the University of Chicago, June 2020.