how to take care of your mental health in uncertain times

“2020 is THE year of personal growth.”

What are your thoguhts on this?

Did you learn anything from the lockdown, the new work arrangement and the new found daily routine?

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t ask if you were being “productive” at home.

Because you know what? Rest, recharge and unplug are essential in the productivity equation.

As we are approaching Thanksgiving and the end of the year, I would like to take some time to reflect on everything that happened. As I always say here, we should measure the gain, i.e. how far we’ve come, not the gap (current stage vs ideal self). We will all be happier and more grateful if we count our achievements and our blessings, despite the circumstances.

The Wellness Statement

If I were to illustrate my physical and mental health on an income statement, I would say my 2019 balance being carried forward was negative.

Yes, I was at my worst last year.

I was frustrated, devastated and exhausted. Physically and mentally. To be honest, 2020 wasn’t even that bad to me.

After confirming I would return to Sydney for the master degree last year, I started planning my new year, and possibly a new life.

This is what I wrote down in the beginning of 2020:

I really looked forward to it. I really tried. Soon after, the virus hit us.

We entered a “new normal”.

Physical Health Changes

While I relocated back to Sydney and slowly settled in, we entered a lockdown. It was great that the government allowed exercising, and I had enjoyed strolling in the park – something I never did in my previous 5 years of corporate life.

After the lockdown was eased I joined a boxing class. Since then I have been visiting the fitness centre 3 times a week. I am at my best form now. I checked off the box of putting physical health as priority. And here are some benefits working out has given me:

  • better sleep
  • feeling more pumped to face everyday obstacles
  • better focus on important tasks

On the other hand, things haven’t been so great in regards to my mental health.

Mental Health Changes

Research showed the therapy (and health apps) businesses were booming in 2020.

It’s hard to cope with uncertainties. It’s hard to be isolated from the society. It’s hard to deal with anxiety and stress from environment, job and social life.

Given my bad-enough mental health stage, I honestly didn’t know if the pandemic was doing me a favour or acting against me. I was happy for the disconnection, but at the same time it’s another level of mental wellness crisis.

Few things I realised from the lockdown:

  • No matter how much you enjoy being alone, a certain form of human contact is needed.
  • We are forced to ask ourselves what do we really want to achieve in our lives.
  • It surprised me how people still discriminate Mondays and glorify Saturdays.
  • There is literally no excuse for not going after the life you want. People learn new skills and start businesses during pandemic.

Change is uncomfortable. Change takes time.

When you are determined and consistent enough, nothing can stop you.

My mental health is in a better stage now. I prioritised it, and I am now seeking help. I’m grateful for the courage I have to make a lasting change. The real question is: what about you?

Stop making excuses. Don’t wait for the new year to make a change. You know you are not going to stick to the new year resolution anyway. Make up your mind, create a plan, and make daily baby steps towards your goal.

Tips: how to achieve any goal

I recognised a success recipe when I achieved my physical and mental health goals. Here’s the secret:

1 Your goals have to be intrinsic

You won’t stay consistent if you are trying to impress others. Example: hitting the gym because you want to look good at the beach during summer. You are running treadmills, lifting weights and dieting between May to July, but after September you pretty much go back to your old self. This is not going to work. However, if your reason to stay healthy and fit is to be your best self so you can provide for your loved ones, it becomes an intrinsic goal.

When it comes to health-related goals, there really isn’t an “end goal”. Rather, a status to maintain. Therefore consistency is key. Hence you need a much more compelling reason to stay focused. It is worth taking time to think about things you value in life. You can throw motivation and willpower out of the window once you have intrinsic goals, since it IS who you are.

2 Accountability

To make sure you stay in the game and make progress, you probably shouldn’t do it alone. Accountabiliy comes in more than one form.

  • Make it public
    • Show your work. Document your progress online.
    • Do it in a public space, e.g. outdoor bootcamp, visit a therapy clinic.
  • Participate with a group or follow a coach
    • Join classes, form a community.
    • Work on your physical and mental health goals with a coach, nutritionist or therapist.

In my personal experience, doing home workout alone didn’t work. Joining the gym is better, but it can be tricky to keep track of progress without a personal trainer. So I finally settled in joining fitness class. On the other hand, I couldn’t stay consistent doing meditation at home. And it was in no way a substitute to therapy. So I ended up changing that as well.

At the end of the day, your goal is to keep making progress every single day. Accountability keeps you committed and pushes your boundaries bit by bit.

Other tips to take care of mental health during uncertainties

It doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to join a 7-day trip to a deserted place without internet to do meditation.

Just unplug, and breathe for a few minutes.

Looking for creative ways to improve mental health?

Check out this video where I used a music diary to document my emotion journey over the past 2 years:

As usual, I would like to hear from you! Feel free to vent if you need to. You can either shoot me an email, or DM me through Instagram/Twitter.

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Have an awesome day ahead!