Mental health is something most of us could do a better job of prioritizing, even in the best of situations. During a time like this, it’s absolutely essential. Whether it’s pushing through anxiety or ignoring nagging feelings of discontent, we are conditioned to keep up productivity at any cost. If you’re working from home, you may have found yourself trying to overcompensate by allowing your workday to bleed into your home life. If so, you’re in good company -- a recent SHRM study found that 41% of employees felt burned out amid COVID-19 struggles.
So, what can you do to alleviate the feeling of stress, insecurity, or alienation while under quarantine orders? We asked our team to share the healthy methods they use to demonstrate self-care, overcome negative feelings, and reconnect with their core values. Here’s the list we compiled with 42 ways to improve mental health. We hope it will serve as a reminder of the importance of tending to your own personal well-being during the pandemic and beyond.
1. Send a handwritten card, postcard or letter to someone you miss.
2. Use video chat to host a virtual happy hour and make cocktails together.
3. Invite friends or family to a Zoom dinner party. You can all make or order the same cuisine. Take it to the next level by adding a wine or cocktail pairing to each course.
4. Start a movie club with friends – pick one movie per week to watch and then discuss on video chat at a specified time.
6. Play games online with friends and family. Download apps like Houseparty or mobile versions of Yahtzee and Boggle. Screencast the Jackbox multiplayer game platform on a Zoom meeting and complete actions from your own smartphone.
7. Make a list of paths, trails, or parks to explore weekly if they are currently open to the public.
8. Look into community service opportunities near you. Donating to worthy causes is a great use of your downtime if you're unable to volunteer in person. Look up national non-profits helping those in need or local organizations who are doing the same for an issue you care about.
9. Go for a drive in an area with scenery or architecture you like, or find a new spot to explore. This is also a good excuse to start your car at least once a week to keep up its maintenance.
10. Try a new form of exercise or build up your skill in something you’ve already started. Try YouTube or other online classes, download apps like Nike Run Club or My Fitness Pal to stay on top of your steps, calories burned, and more.
11. Get in contact with old friends and family. It might be the ideal time to rekindle a relationship that fell by the wayside because you were both too busy before.
12. Learn a new language with apps like Duolingo. Challenge a friend or family member to do it with you!
13. YouTube is filled with do-it-yourself how-tos; learn how to fix things around the house or create new items for home improvement.
14. Try solo games that make you think, distract you from anxiety, or otherwise tease your brain, like crosswords or puzzles.
15. Cook and bake! Make an old family recipe that brings back great memories, or try new dishes you find online or from friends. Bonus points if you start with ingredients that are already in your fridge or pantry.
16. Have an at-home spa day – do a hair treatment, give yourself a manicure or pedicure, soak your feet, wear a face mask, and listen to soothing music.
17. Start a garden or collection of plants and flowers. Begin with succulents – which only need to be watered once or twice a month – if you want something low maintenance, or plant vegetables if you have the space.
18. Engage with music. Explore the discography of an artist or band you like, but only know a couple of songs by. Look for playlists designed to brighten the mood, or curate your own to share with loved ones. Check out classical music if you’re looking for something to help you relax.
19. Look up your favorite performers to see if they are doing online shows. Though all concerts, live shows, and plays are on hold for the foreseeable future, many musicians, actors, comedians, and other performers are staging online entertainment.
20. Get artsy. Take an art class online, sketch your surroundings, or if you’re not artistically inclined, a coloring book can still be great fun. Paint-by-number kits or apps like Zentangle are also easy and fun ways to show your artistic side.
21. Get crafty with scrapbooking, knitting, crocheting, origami, or other art, and watch tutorials online to perfect your skills.
22. Draw a chalk mural or hopscotch course in the neighborhood and watch your neighbors interact with it.
23. Make a collage using junk mail and old magazines.
24. Hang up pictures. Fill your home with happy memories by using a service like Mixtiles to convert online photos from Facebook and Instagram into framed prints for around the house.
25. Learn more about subjects you're curious about. Think of topics that interest you and you’d like to learn more about, then find podcasts and audiobooks on the subject.
26. Practice mindfulness and relaxation with meditation. Apps like Headspace can make this process easier, or check out Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) videos on YouTube for a different type of relaxing experience.
27. Ask loved ones for TV and movie recommendations, but don’t be afraid to rewatch old favorites. Stuff you love, particularly the lighthearted or comedic, can be a great source of comfort.
28. Set up a tent and go “camping” with your quarantine-mates if you have a yard.
29. Watch the clouds passing for familiar shapes, or star watch at night and try to see how many constellations you can pick out. Even in busy cities, the skies are particularly clear right now because of reduced pollution.
30. Make your own bird feeder and learn about the birds native to your area.
31. Play "I Spy" while out on walks. Pick one color or item (e.g., anything yellow or a specific type of car) to tally up. Take pictures to share with friends on your Instagram story.
32. Take up writing – whether it’s poetry, a short story, screenplay, or simply journaling your thoughts, it will be a great time capsule of how you were feeling right now. If you’re looking for inspiration, try jotting down any interesting dreams you have.
33. Declutter – start “keep, toss, donate” piles for clothes, clear out or organize drawers, make messy spaces more organized by ordering containers from Amazon or Target.
34. Free up space on your phone or computer by deleting old documents and unused apps and archiving photos using a cloud-based app like Google Photos.
35. Look up your birthday to find out which famous people share yours, and learn more about them. Share your friends and family’s “birthday twins” with them.
36. Clean your reusable bags! Now is a great time to spruce them up by wiping them down, rinsing them in the sink, or even throwing them in the washing machine.
37. Help out your local favorites. Many barbershops and salons, dry cleaners, restaurants, bars, etc. are struggling right now. Look them up on GoFundMe to see if they have existing fundraisers going, or reach out to the owners to see if they’d be interested in starting one.
38. Get your finances in shape! Many of us are adjusting to not being social at restaurants and bars as we once were, so divert those saved funds into paying down credit cards, loans, or building up your savings account.
39. Stay hydrated! Set an alarm several times a day to make sure you are getting enough water.
40. Limit your screen time at night to prevent yourself from staying up too late – instead, listen to an audiobook, or read an actual book or magazine before you nod off.
41. Try to think of at least one thing per day that you are grateful for, and if you are burdened by something, try to think of two things that you are happy about to cancel out the bad. Journaling what you feel gratitude for is a great way to keep track of these feelings.
42. Ask for help if you need it. If you can’t shake feelings of anxiety or depression, contact your doctor or a therapist for a virtual session.