In the face of adversity during the pandemic, many of us needed to adapt by developing habits rooted in survival—survival for our mental and physical health. I knew early on that my mental health was going to need to be prioritized more than ever before.
To make it through the worst of the pandemic, there were some habits I needed to adopt. And though we're still making our way through this thing, with the latest surge in Delta variant cases, I'll continue to implement these habits more consciously in my life long after the pandemic finally subsides.
I made it a goal, no matter what, to do some sort of movement throughout the day—even if it was only for 15 minutes. This was something I used to do A LOT better years ago, but the habit got lost somewhere along the way of me trying to advance in my career. Now, with me having a dog, I knew I'd at least be able to fit in a couple walks a day. When the weather was nicer, I'd pop in an airpod and listen to a podcast. Today, this routine has evolved into strength training four days a week, with some walks and runs mixed in. It's become the lifestyle I'd always hoped I could wrangle one day.
TAKING AN EXTRA BREATH BEFORE ACTING OR SPEAKING.
We're all stressed out right now. And I mean, let's face it, we have been for the last 20 months. Sometimes, this stress can bleed over into our interactions with friends, family and coworkers in some not so great ways. Though we should always take a breather before firing off a response or potentially conflicting opinion in the heat of the moment, it's even more vital to do so now and in the future. I've found that allowing myself more time to process things has offered greater perspective and understanding of where others are coming from. Leading with empathy won't ever steer you wrong.
DRINKING MORE WATER.
This one is super simple. Just do it! Your body will thank you.
NOTICING AND APPRECIATING THE LITTLE THINGS.
Instead of waiting until I'm super stressed out to take a breather, I started intentionally stopping what I was doing and taking deep breaths and absorbing my surroundings throughout the day, no matter my mood. At first, it can feel unnatural to simply stop what you're doing. But I remembered how much better I felt after taking a moment to myself, as I noticed I was usually clenching my jaw or holding tension in my shoulders. Consider also jotting down the things you notice about your surroundings or what happened during your day that made you smile or feel grateful.
I was already pretty decent at saying "no" to the things I didn't want to do, but now I've really honed in on what that looks like in a post-pandemic world. We really have learned what we can live without—and who and what should have a prominent place in our lives. It's not selfish to act on behalf of your best interests when it comes to your mental health, time and energy. Asking others to respect your boundaries doesn't make you a brat—but it should make you proud that you're standing up for yourself.
Keep it up. I believe in you.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.