2020 has been a turbulent year to say the least. We’ve had a pandemic, a market crash and incidents of police brutality that have sparked protests and unrest across the country. And it’s only July.
It’s no surprise that the Census Bureau reports that one-third of Americans now show significant symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression amid the pandemic. “I would call these past few months a mental roller coaster,” says Nadia Ali, a digital marketing analyst at Imagination. “Some days were more positive, while others felt like a dark mental hole that lacked hope for our world to get ‘back to normal.’”
Content marketing is not a life or death profession. We aren’t health professionals on the front lines of the pandemic. In fact, our jobs don’t require us to leave our homes. Those of us still working are incredibly lucky to have jobs, considering the national nonfarm unemployment rate stands at 13.3% as of this writing.
Still, balancing the demands of our jobs with the many stressors that emerged in 2020 takes a psychological toll. The truth is that no matter what situation you find yourself in right now, there aren’t any easy solutions. But there are tactics that you can try as you care for your mental health through these trying times. Here are eight of them.
1. Practice gratitude
To remain calm, write down a list of things that you’re grateful for. After all, research shows that gratitude is linked with feelings of happiness and hope. Reflecting on what you have can deepen your appreciation for the people and opportunities in your life, and it can also make it possible to find comfort during stressful periods.
2. Add meditation to your routine
Breathe in. Breathe out. Meditation, which teaches us to focus on the present moment, is proven to lower stress and improve sleep quality. If you want a relaxing activity that can be done whenever and wherever, this practice might be what you need.
Not sure how to get started? These meditation apps can help:
- Headspace: goal-oriented sessions with themes like productivity and movement.
- Calm: less-structured sessions with features such as music and sleep guidance.
- Ten Percent Happier: courses taught by top mindfulness experts.
- The Breathing App: a free option that offers meditation timers.
Breathing exercises can also reduce anxiety while you are cultivating mindfulness through meditation. Thus, paying attention to your breath may improve the quality of your practice.
Here are some breathing exercises to try:
- Place one hand on your chest and the other below your rib cage.
- Breathe in through your nose while keeping the hand on your chest still.
- Focus on taking deep breaths.
Alternate nostril breathing
- Relax your right hand on your right knee.
- Close your left nostril with your left thumb.
- Inhale through the right nostril then close it with your finger.
- Open the left nostril and exhale through this side.
3. Lean into your support system
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean you’re alone. In the age of technology, it’s easier than ever to connect with your friends and family. Schedule a video call, join a virtual watch party, attend an online class or consider launching your podcast series. Along with giving you a sense of community, regularly checking in with those you care about can help create feelings of gratitude for the people in your life.
4. Declutter your home
Take control of your mood by tidying up your environment. It’s true—clutter can take a toll on your brain and make it harder for you to focus. Clean out your junk drawer, box up extra items for storage or organize the kitchen cabinets. When you have a clean space, it’s easier to have a relaxed mind.
5. Eat well
While grocery shopping may look different these days, the importance of eating nutritious food remains the same. A 2019 study shares that a diet with fruits and vegetables and limited processed foods can reduce symptoms of depression. Also, don’t forget to drink enough water to stay hydrated.
Foods that have been shown to help ease anxiety and stress:
- Fruits: cherries, apples, kiwi, plums, avocado.
- Vegetables: artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli.
- Fermented foods: miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi.
- Seafood: salmon, mackerel, sardines, shellfish.
- Other: dark chocolate, chamomile tea, barley, plain Greek yogurt, pumpkin seeds.
6. Find a creative outlet
From baking banana bread to painting with watercolors, creativity can be found anywhere at home. So take time for yourself to explore the activities that bring you happiness. Produce a video. Work with clay. Make some music. Research reveals that creative hobbies like cooking and gardening can give you a positive boost.
7. Use affirmations
There’s power in our thoughts, which is why affirmations are beneficial to improving mental health. Studies suggest that repeating supportive statements and messages to ourselves can help us productively manage life challenges. Consider using these statements to combat negative beliefs or to simply provide yourself encouragement throughout the day.
Examples of positive affirmations:
- “I can do this.”
- “All I have to do is figure out the next step.”
- “This moment won’t last forever.”
8. Make time for exercise
Whether it’s jogging around your neighborhood or following along to a workout video from home, a healthier lifestyle can lead to a healthier mind. Jorge Morales, a senior motion graphic designer at Imagination, has turned to staying active as an outlet. “I try to go on short walks or bike rides,” he says. “It helps me relax and increases my mental concentration.” More specifically, exercise helps blood flow to the brain and can improve creativity. Other benefits? Exercise lowers the level of stress hormones in our bodies.
Times may be hard, but we’re all in this together. Whether you’re a content marketer or not, we hope you’ll care for your mental health as best you can with these tips. And when things get really tough, ask someone for help.