Mental wellbeing has become more important with lives disrupted since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The new normal, as it has come to be known, has brought with it major changes in how we work, learn live and even interact.
According to research from Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-2030, one in every four Kenyans suffers from mental illness in their lifetime. In most cases, their disorders remain undiagnosed. The common disorders include depressive disorders, substance use disorders, schizophrenia and disorders of children and adolescence.
The stress on lives being caused by the Covid-19 outbreak – including loss of jobs and revenues as well as restrictive lifestyles – has piled more pressure on many Kenyans and is expected to increase mental disorders such as depression and, more so, anxiety.
It is possible, however, to take control of your mental health even during a pandemic such as this by building habits and undertaking activities that boost your wellbeing. Drawing on research from various organizations, here are seven ways to protect your mental health in a world turned upside down. In some cases, you may need a therapist to help restore your mental health from anxiety or depression.
Daily Positive Routines
To stay upbeat despite disruptions, experts advise individuals to adapt by creating positive new routines. Engage in meaningful activities that excite and challenge you, such as cooking, volunteering, exercising or playing a sport for recreation. You can also write down your plans. Having activities to look forward to makes it easier to get up in the morning charged up for the day ahead.
Physical wellbeing is just as important to protecting your mental health as any other factor. Multiple studies indicate that exercise helps reduce depression and anxiety levels. You don’t require an elaborate work-out routine or a gym membership to begin exercising. You can take walks, for example, to stay active. Exercise helps your brain release endorphins improving your moods.
Talk to Someone
Whether you’re feeling sad, worried, anxious or depressed, a simple conversation can make you feel a lot better. Talking helps people understand that they are loved and appreciated even if they are questioning themselves or facing internal doubts and uncertainties.
Take time to also think about how you could help the people around you – be it friends, family or the people in your local community. Learn to listen and offer encouragement to those who open up.
There are also toll free numbers for individuals to call to talk to someone when experiencing suicidal thoughts or considering self harm – such as the government’s tele-counselling and psychological care hotline numbers 1199 and 719 and the Befrienders Kenya hotline.
Practicing mindfulness, meditation and prayer has been proven to have a positive effect on individuals’ mental health. It teaches one to be present and live in the moment, helping counter problems of over-thinking, anxiety, depression and lack of focus.
Meditation puts those who practice it on a path to greater self-awareness and self-control. You can also practice breathing exercises and other relaxation exercises to train your mind and body to stay calm and relaxed.
A good night’s sleep is more important than you think when it comes to protecting your mental health. Anxiety and constant worries makes it difficult to maintain regular sleeping patterns
Getting enough sleep has positive effects on the body and brain, leaving you healthier and happier. Recommended practices for good sleep include avoiding spending time on screens before bed, reducing Caffeine intake and creating a restful environment.
See Also >> Sleeping Can Turn You Into a Great Person
Avoid Drinking and Smoking
If used as a way of coping through difficult or stressful times, drinking and smoking can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. Numerous resources exist for individuals seeking to stay sober or cut back on alcohol consumption. There are also communities for individuals working to beat addiction and substance abuse, such as Alcoholics Anonymous in Kenya.
Being with nature is one way to quickly improve your moods. Fresh air and green spaces can benefit both your physical and mental health. If it is difficult or impossible for you to access green spaces, you can bring nature indoors. For instance, you can spend time with the windows open at home to allow in fresh air. You can also create space to enjoy the sunlight.
There are resources online that provide a good guide on how to find a mental therapist for anxiety.