As this pandemic drags on, we are becoming accustomed to “new normals.” We’ve gotten used to wearing masks and using sanitizer liberally. Unfortunately, many of us have also gotten used to a new, higher level of stress and anxiety.

We’re being asked to manage psychological challenges that in the past would have been seen as highly unusual, like spending excessive hours and days isolated and indoors. These challenges require us to consider new options for managing our mental wellbeing. 

In my work as an activity therapist in a psychiatric hospital, I see patients come in all the time who are suffering the effects of prolonged anxiety. In order to help them manage and overcome these challenges, I facilitate groups where we discuss topics like mental wellness.

According to the World Health Organization, mental wellness is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” 

Mental wellness is one of the six aspects of overall wellness. The other aspects are physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and occupational. All the aspects must be tended to. And when they are balanced and considered, a state of contentment can be achieved. 

A lot of people think that mental wellness is a given. However, achieving a state of peace and tranquility in the midst of a pandemic takes forethought and consistency. These days, we must make mental wellness a priority and proactively work to safeguard our mental wellbeing. 

Six Tips for Creating Mental Wellness.

  1. Identify What Makes You Feel Good

At the hospital we ask the patients what kinds of leisure activities they do on a regular basis. Leisure activities are activities done for pleasure, relaxation, or other emotional satisfaction, typically after work and other responsibilities are done.

” I IIWe share with them the importance of leisure to mental health. Doing something purely for fun or relaxation is what helps the mind relax and lowers levels of anxiety and stress. And leisure can be anything from walking to swimming, reading, playing golf, or playing cards with friends.

2. Make Mental Wellness a Priority

Often when we are stressed and anxious, leisure activities can take a backseat to things that seem more important or pressing. However, it is during stressful times that leisure becomes most critical. After doing leisure activities, we feel refreshed, renewed, and ready to tackle life’s challenges. 

3. Schedule Your Practice

There was a point in my life when I put work above all else. I ended up having no life. It’s taken me a long time to recover and create a healthier lifestyle. I actually took a year out to totally reinvent my life. I chronicled my journey in my memoir, Center of Gravity. One way I learned to keep leisure activities on my radar is to actually put them on my calendar. Instead of thinking “I should really go to yoga,” I get the calendar out and write down exactly when I plan to take the yoga class. And then I use my willpower to follow through.

Sometimes, it helps to “put first things first.” For those of us who have grand intentions, but have a hard time with the follow through, it can be helpful to schedule our mental wellness practices before anything else. I’ve gotten to the point where I schedule ll of my self-care and leisure activities in the morning, prior to beginning my work in the afternoon. Otherwise, I have a habit of getting sucked into the vortex of “all work and no play.”

 

Be Consistent

It’s not enough to try to fit your leisure activities in from time to time. Leisure needs to be consistent to have an effect on mental health. It’s almost like taking out the trash. The stress and tension of everyday life need to be relieved on a regular basis. 

Cut Out the Noise

One way to improve one’s mental wellness is to reduce the amount of time watching the news.

We tend to laugh off the impact of TV and social media on our mental health, but a study in the British Journal of Medicine showed a correlation between watching the news and the catasrophizing of personal events. 

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