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COVID insight - Mental Strength Is Essential

Like most people, you are probably feeling a variety of emotions in a roller-coaster fashion during this COVID-19 crisis. Some emotions are enjoyable, such as thankfulness for being able to spend more time with family and hopefulness that after the crisis passes, the world may be a more compassionate place. Other emotions are uncomfortable and stem from fears about the unknown, financial security and kids out of school for the remainder of the year. How do we feel better, less anxious and more satisfied during these uncertain times? It involves assessing your biological and emotional needs, taking action that align with your values and letting things go when needed.

Biological needs are related to eating well and getting enough sleep, exercise and mental stimulation. These needs are extremely important for staying mentally healthy, yet so often we have a deficit in one or more of these areas. Not focusing on these important aspects of life is like building your “house” out of straw; you may crumble after a disagreement with a loved one or when your child throws a tantrum. The top three things to do to meet your biological needs are:

1. Keep the same bedtime and wake-up time everyday.

2. Choose healthy options to eat at least 80 percent of the time and exercise daily.

3. Limit the amount of mindless TV you watch.

Emotional needs include feeling connected with others, feeling like we are in control and feeling like we are safe. It is understandable if all of these needs are lacking right now. To assess our needs, we need to notice -- and not judge -- our thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations. Another way to phrase this is that we need to be mindful of what is going on in our mind and body. Are you irritable because working remotely is stressful and you don’t have as much control as you did in the office? Are you lonely because “social outings” through video communication don’t seem to be enough right now? A helpful way to understand or process your emotions is to write it out or talk with a trusted family member, friend or a counselor. Once the root has been identified, determine if there is anything in your control to make things better. For example, is there anything you can do to make your work more meaningful? Is there a creative way you can grow your business or role through social media, video or phone calls? Can you spend time planning your kid’s daily schedule at the beginning of the week so you are less stressed on a daily basis? In what ways can you serve your community and those who are vulnerable during this crisis? Make sure the actions you decide to take align with your values so that you feel the most fulfilled and energized. The top three things to do to meet your emotional needs are:

1. Talk, text or video chat with people several times a day.

2. Limit news programs to one hour a day.

3. Focus on things you can control.

On the other hand, if you think there is nothing you can do to control a situation, try to challenge your anxious thoughts and focus on what is in your control and what matters to you. Things that you can control include your daily schedule, what you make for dinner, deciding to work an extra hour or take a break, how you help those in need and your response to negativity. Instead of saying, “My kids will never learn anything at home,” you could say, “This is how I will do my best to teach my kids.” People who are able to take action when needed and let go of the things they can’t control will feel the best during this crisis.

It takes practice to live this way, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Finally, remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself grace during this difficult season. Through assessing your biological and emotional needs, taking action and letting things go when needed, you can enjoy life and grow despite the circumstances.

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