10 Simple Ways to Maintain Mental/Emotional Health

This is a picture of me in my ultimate “happy place” – at the bank of the Snake River just at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. If I could choose anywhere in the world right now to practice “social distancing,” without having to deal with logistics of money, travel, etc, this is where I would be riding this thing out. In reality, I am gratefully sheltering at home with my family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We are healthy, in reasonably good spirits, and doing our best to share joy and encouragement with those who are within digital reach. And in that spirit, I’m sharing with you today ten practical tips to help you maintain your best mental and emotional health during a time of such radical change in daily routine and uncertainty about how the rhythm of life will move forward from here.

1. Bring your focus back to Right Here Right Now on a continual basis. Yes, we do need to maintain an awareness of what is going on in our respective communities, states, nations, etc. But we will feel and function our very best when we stay grounded in the present moment wherever we really are. My previous post includes a simple exercise you can use to help. The more we are focused on the present moment wherever we actually are, the more peaceful and empowered we are to make our best and healthiest choices.

2. Get some exercise regularly – outside, if reasonably possible. Go for a run (wear that mask you’ve got handy now, if the pollen count is a problem for you). Clean the dust off your weights or home gym. Do some crunches, lunges, pushups, or other simple resistance methods that require no equipment. Walk or jog in place while you watch a fun movie or TV show. Jump rope. Do some burpees. Ride your bike. Whatever you can do – get moving, just do it, and remember to do your best and forget the rest.

3. Read books that bring your mind somewhere beyond your current stresses. Pick up that novel or series you’ve had sitting around for too long. Read or re-read a good self-help book. Study your Bible or other spiritually guiding and inspiring literature. Could be a good time to read an interesting biography or two. Invite some friends or family members to join you in a weekly book club meeting via Zoom, FaceTime, phone call, text group, or whatever.

4. Play games with your fellow shelterers-at-home. Have fun taking turns picking from board games, card games, conversational games, dice games, puzzle games, strategy games, collaborative games, etc. See what you’ve already got stashed away somewhere at home. If you can’t find anything interesting, consider ordering a game or two from Amazon or wherever you do your online shopping. If online shopping isn’t an option, look for a basic deck of cards at the grocery store the next time you need to go re-stock.

5. Work a jigsaw puzzle or two, either by yourself or with your family. When you’re done, glue it together and frame it as a reminder of how you made it through this difficult time together by cooperating and loving and serving one another. You could even do like we do at our house, and make a little business card sized tag to put in a corner as a label for who worked the puzzle and when you did it.

6. Express yourself creatively/artistically. Spread cheer with sidewalk chalk drawings and messages. Dabble in colorful expression with a coloring book. Develop your sketching, painting, or other skills – regardless of your current level of ability. Build new music playlists on your favorite music app. Try your hand at creating some new music of your own. Share your creativity with the world using your favorite digital means!

7. Call someone to encourage them. Few things lift the human spirit like deliberately making efforts to lift someone else’s spirit. We have so many different options now for sharing conversations with loved ones. Make the most of those options! Reach out to someone you haven’t seen for a while. Contact someone who is not on social media. Encourage someone you know could use some encouragement. Share something uplifting, fun, creative, or offbeat. They will be so glad you did – and so will you!

8. Clean, straighten, or organize a portion of your home, vehicle, office, or outdoor space. When we are faced with so many changes that are beyond our control, doing our best to reclaim and rejuvenate our own personal space that we can control is SO important. Make the most of this opportunity. It will help you more than you can imagine.

9. Connect online with your spiritual tribe. So many churches are now offering online worship services, classes, etc. Whether or not you regularly attend services at any particular church, now is an ideal time to find one online. Many recovery groups are also using online technology now to make meetings possible wherever you are. Don’t try to face this season of life alone. Get plugged into community.

10. Take time to enjoy your favorite pictures from previous times and places. Reliving your favorite moments in favorite places with favorite people is a terrific way to lift your spirit, bring a smile to your face, and maybe even prompt you to reach out in love to someone who hasn’t yet crossed your mind in all this. Enjoy that stroll down memory lane! It’s available whenever you need to stretch your mental legs and find your smile again.

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