Managing mental health during trying times is an important part of maintaining overall health, and during the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health needs are more important than ever. Social isolation, job loss, financial instability and working from home while balancing virtual schooling can all take a toll on your health and sense of well-being.

If mental health challenges have begun to arise in your life, you’re not alone. Many people across our country and world are struggling to find a new sense of normal while confronting feelings of helplessness, anxiety and depression. It’s important to seek the help of a medical professional for increasing mental health needs, but there are some lifestyle changes you can make immediately to help restore a sense of wellness and ease to your life.

Simple choices like staying away from the 24 hour news cycle, getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine can all go a long way to keep your mind and body feeling connected and calm. Here are several ways to help you maintain your mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vacation from News and Social Media
Let’s face it-the 24 hour news cycle is not conducive to good mental health, and consuming constant information can overstimulate your brain and central nervous system. Whenever you need to, take a few days or even a week off of news and social media sites. Choose to head outdoors and relax in nature instead, or call a friend or loved one to share and connect. While it’s important to stay informed, it isn’t necessary to be plugged in at all times. Taking a mental health vacation from information overload will allow your mind and body to process this time and reconnect to the present moment.

Care for Your Body
Now is the time to give your body the best care possible with good sleep, nutritious food, daily movement, fresh air and time in the sun. Caring for your body will not only strengthen your immune system, but will also help to lift your mood and help you to stay connected to yourself. Find ways to exercise that feel good, choose to eat foods that leave you feeling energized and strong and aim for 8 hours of sleep a night.

Daily Journaling
One of the best ways to organize your thoughts, face your fears and experience renewed gratitude is to write it down. Start keeping a daily journal that allows you to dump your daily worries, express your frustrations and examine your doubts. Choose to finish each entry by writing out everything that is working for you and practice gratitude. You’ll find that your mental load feels lighter each day, and that your sense of connection to yourself and to your circumstances is renewed.

Find New Ways to Connect
It’s true that you may not be able to cozy up inside with your mom or visit grandparents the way you used to. You may not be able to meet up for your favorite yoga class or even enjoy a long dinner at your favorite restaurant with your best friend. There are still ways to connect and find a sense of togetherness during these times, but they require thinking outside of the box. Invite your workout friends to join you for long walks or bike rides outdoors. Meet your mom at a local park and enjoy conversations and connection with 6 feet between you. Visit grandparents by staying safely outside, while they wave to you from their windows or glass doors, and meet a friend for an outdoor, BYO picnic with space between you. It may feel different at first, but changing the way you approach connection and togetherness can still lead you to fulfillment and a sense of closeness to the ones you love.

Practice Mindfulness
You don’t have to meditate for an hour a day to practice mindfulness, but a simple, solid breathing practice can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Set aside fifteen minutes a day to sit quietly and practice listening to your breath as it moves in and out. Allow your mind to empty of all thoughts and give yourself 5 minutes of simple noticing, followed by a few moments of quiet reflection. You can choose to download mindfulness apps to support you in your practice, as well.