This season of Covid has been an emotional roller coaster of stress, restrictions and uncertainty. When stress continues for a long period of time, it takes a toll on our physical and mental health, which is why today I will list ideas, based on my own research and experience, to help you stay physically and mentally healthy while you pursue employment.
On that note, we often separate physical health and mental health, but research shows these are closely connected, and there is a need for a more holistic approach to staying healthy.
“Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively influence physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.”
Physical Health and Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, 2021
These suggestions will not be new to you. You have heard them before because they are proven to work. However, it can be difficult to sustain good habits and balance in all parts of our life, so take this as a reminder to make some positive changes right now.
To help you ease into it, choose one or two areas below and focus on them for a month, then add more once the others have become more of a habit. If you can make small changes, they are much more likely to stick in the long term.
Being in nature reduces stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol. It makes us feel relaxed and connected to our environment. The best part is nature is available to everyone and it is free! Have a picnic lunch, read a book under a tree, go hiking or biking on a trail, and enjoy the benefits of being outside!
Help, Give, Volunteer
When we have too much time or feel stressed out, we tend to focus too much on our own situation. Get out of your own head and look for ways to help others in your community. Offer to help your friends or neighbours. Participate in your church. Give to a charity that is close to your heart. Volunteer with a local organization. It helps others and you feel good too.
Be Mindful Of Your Media Consumption
Do you spend a lot of time on social media? What are you watching on TV? Do you watch the news every night? Be conscious of how much time you are spending on a screen and what type of information you take in. Consider alternatives like reading a magazine, playing board games with a family member, doing a puzzle or listening to uplifting music.
Keep in touch with those who build you up and support you. Even when we cannot get together during Covid restrictions, it is important to have a positive network of people in your life. While social media is a great way to connect, remember that it cannot replace real-world human connection.
Get Good Sleep
It is important, of course, to get enough sleep. We already know this, but somehow the night goes by and we find ourselves going to bed far too late again. Commit to turning off devices at a set time and leave them in another room to help you get to bed at a reasonable time. The recommended amount of sleep for an adult is 7+ hours a night.
Physical activity in any form is a great way to keep you physically healthy, and it also improves your mental well-being. My suggestion is to make small changes to your routine. Try adding a 5-10 minute walk to your day or get off the bus at an earlier stop and walk the extra distance. It all adds up!
Watch Your Diet
What we eat is central to our health. When our bodies do not get what it needs from food, it can lead to health decline and even chronic illness. You want to avoid foods that are high in sugar, such as sweets and sugary drinks, and foods that are high in sodium and trans fats, like processed foods. Start by removing one item from your grocery list that is not good for you and replace it with a healthy choice. If it is not in the house, you are less likely to eat it!
Do not expect perfection as you try to make changes. If you mess up, start again tomorrow. As humans, we are consistently inconsistent. Be kind to yourself and give yourself the grace you would extend to others.