September 14, 2021
The pandemic thrust many of us into uncharted territory when it comes to emotional and mental health. While we have spent days, weeks, and months physically separated from the people and routines that bring us comfort, it has become more challenging to feel like ourselves.
Celebrities and media outlets have turned their attention to this experience, and offer both a sense of condolence and reassurance that we aren’t alone. Oprah partnered with other prominent celebrities including Prince Harry in her documentary series “The Me You Can’t See”, released on Apple TV this spring, to de-stigmatize the challenges of Depression.
The series offers viewers an opportunity see individuals often idolized by the media as humans facing their own mental and emotional challenges. The New York Times
empowered us to name the haze COVID instilled when they reported in April on the effects of Languishing. “Languishing”, researchers determined, “is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.” 
I for one can certainly relate. While my routine and work-life balance remain upended, I have found a number of resources that bring a little joy back into my days. I’m excited to share some of the strategies that have helped me along the way :)
1. Talking with friends
Friendship plays a critical role in safeguarding mental health. The Mental Health Foundation reported in August, “Friendship is a crucial element in protecting our mental health. Our friends can keep us grounded, help us get things in perspective, and help us manage the problems that life throws at us”. 
Basically, friends help us remember that we exist and have value outside the context and stress of our everyday lives, so that when we’re having a bad day or feel bogged down, we don’t get emotionally flooded.
Companies like ChattyKathi help you keep relationships alive and relevant without the burden of remembering when to reach out or deciding what to say. ChattyKathi sends you and your friends a curated text 1–3 times per week over SMS to spark a fun and lighthearted conversation (so you don’t have to keep asking the “how have you been?” question — which is even harder to answer when you’re feeling down!) My friends and I have shared fond memories together, debated our taco vs. pizza preferences, and even laughed over pictures of our variably-flourishing-or-withering house plants. Each prompt takes less than 30-seconds to answer, but radiates a little joy into my day.
2. Learn one new thing
Learning something new, even a little tidbit like “planting 2 tomato plants in pots on patio yielded WAY more tomatoes than I could ever consume”, is worth remembering. Research clearly shows that learning can boost self-confidence, establish a sense of purpose, and deepen connection with others. People who incorporate a learning-mentality into their lifestyle report greater ability to manage stress, better adapt to new situations, and feel greater hope (which is certainly something we all need right now). 
The challenge is telling our brains that we have actually succeeded in learning something, and that having done so is worth celebrating! The next time you listen to a podcast or hear an announcement on the radio, take 10 seconds to ask yourself what you learned. Even if the takeaway feels inconsequential, you are still teaching your brain that it is smart and able to both retain and care about new information, which pays off!
3. Treat Yourself
Sometimes switching up my usual black coffee for a latte with cinnamon can reboot my whole morning. One of the best pieces of advice my mother gave me is on days when you’re not feeling my best, it goes a long way to make sure you look good. Put on a favorite sweater or those fun shoes you never get out, and you’ll feel more ready to meet the day. Basically — treat yourself! Help get out of your funk by celebrating small moments in your day and upgrading from your usual choices. Buy that latte! Wear the cute shoes :) The little things go a long way. Most importantly, remember that you are worth it!
4. Practice Mindfulness
While mindfulness apps about (Insight Timer and Headspace are a couple personal favorites), you don’t have to download something to your phone to find inner peace. Being mindful can happen in 30 seconds of breathing, or even 10 seconds of silence. When a friend of mine spent a summer as a camp counselor, she learned a mindfulness technique that I still use on a weekly basis.
Let’s try it.
Look around you.
Notice your surroundings without judgement. Take a deep breath. Remember what you saw. Now close your eyes.
After a moment, open them again look around. This time, specifically pay attention to everything that is blue. See anything you missed the first time? Or, maybe you’re surprised by how many tiny things in your environment have the color blue on them?
This exercise is intended to remind us that it’s the things we pay attention to that stick with us. If you’re upset and focus only on the bad things happening — your kid misbehaving, or that you got soaked when a rainstorm out of nowhere dumped on you while you were walking the dog — you’re nearly guaranteed to have a bad day. On the other hand, if you redirect your attention, you might see something that changes your mind and your heart.
“Friendship and Mental Health.” Mental Health Foundation
, 13 Aug. 2021