6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As humans, we are massive digital consumers. Every single day, multiple times a day, our minds are flooded with content — TV, radio, billboards, posters, newspapers, and of course, social media. Almost every single one of us has a smartphone that keeps us connected with the world every minute of the day, so we can easily access content whenever and wherever we want. With the world in the firm grip of COVID-19, much of the content we now consume is either directly covering the topic of COVID-19, or is somehow related to it. COVID-19 is pretty much all we hear about all day, every day. Our lives have changed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and now we are consuming COVID-19 content across every platform. So what is this doing to our mental health? Are the effects more pronounced if you are someone with a pre-existing mental health condition or are likely to become triggered by the news?
I am a counselor-in-training and have had depression in the past. I’ve learned to identify within myself when I need to step up and start looking after my mental health before I start to potentially spiral downward again. I am also a big digital consumer, and in recent times, I have seen myself starting to get angry at news reports about certain decisions about managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
On a psychological level, we could potentially see the COVID-19 pandemic result in a secondary “pandemic” of burnout, stress, and an increase in mental health conditions. After being constantly bombarded with COVID-19 news every day, I (and probably many others) have had enough, and I have decided to start taking steps to protect my own mental health from this negative digital content. Below I have covered some steps that I have taken and that you can also take to protect your mental health from toxic digital COVID-19 content.
1. Unfollow and unsubscribe from COVID-19 news sources.
One of the first things I did to improve my mental health during the pandemic was unfollow and unsubscribe from all media outlets to minimize my exposure to news. In some instances, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the worst in the media outlets that are supposed to report the news in an unbiased, fair way. I have also noticed that some outlets “talk up” certain political parties’ COVID-19 policies while negatively reporting on others and associating them with certain political parties. Turning COVID-19 into a political pandemic was my worst nightmare (I hate politics as well), so I started to unfollow and unsubscribe. I now only check COVID-19-related information once a day on the official website of my local health organization.
2. Lower your expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now more than ever, we live in a very uncertain world. I have adopted an approach to this uncertainty of keeping all of my expectations low this year. I am not out to achieve big things in my personal and work life, and I am mainly focusing on just being content while practicing gratitude for what I do have in my life right now. Keeping your expectations low and focusing on a simpler life could help you cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes simple is better.
3. Keep your world small as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.
Many of us let global events and news into our lives, but I have decided to “shrink” my world. During the pandemic, this could be a very wise thing to do. I have set up certain travel bubbles of where I go, and I’ve also limited who I visit and who comes into my house. Human connection is a very important thing because we are social beings, so to maintain contact with people outside of my “bubbles,” I use video calls, texting, and social media to stay in touch with them. My family has adopted the same approach so that we minimize our risk of catching COVID-19. The fence that’s a barrier around my home keeps everything “big” out of my world. Everything outside of that boundary is the “bigger world,” and it can do whatever it wants — I just don’t want it entering my smaller world.
4. Improve your environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
My home is my castle, and with the Omicron variant currently running rampant around the world, I have chosen to spend most of my time at home. To keep my mind active and alert, I have limited my screen time at home and instead have focused on improving my environment. I spend a lot of time in my garden and have a goal of one day making my home self-sufficient with minimal reliance on external service providers. I have started to plant a large veggie patch and have also planted a lemon tree, a mandarin tree, and an apple tree in order to produce home-grown fruit and vegetables. I have also maintained my lawn and created a sense of calm in my own space. The more color you may have in your garden surrounding your home, the better you may feel. You can also sort out the inside of your home — tidy up and improve your space!
5. Read books to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As mentioned, I am studying with the goal of becoming a counselor, which involves reading a lot of books on human psychology. I am also reading and learning about negotiation tactics and skills, crisis prevention, and various counseling techniques and strategies. Reading can be a great way to calm yourself, especially if you have anxiety or depression. For this reason, I also set up a “street library” for the public to use, and they can come and trade books whenever they want. Everyone in my neighborhood loves it! Reading can be like going to the movies for some people. That time is yours, and you can take a break from the world as you read through the pages of a good book.
6. Plan your goals for the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
I have some time on my hands at the moment, so I am slowly planning which goals I want to achieve this year and how I am going to make them happen. As mentioned before, I am keeping my expectations low, and this is something that could help you when you plan out your year. Your plans can involve personal or professional goals, but they don’t have to be shared on social media or planned just to impress others. Make your goals your own, and try to achieve those goals without expecting a fanfare if you can. Your goals are for you and no one else.
Getty image by Viktorcvetkovic.