- If you feel down and need help, call for assistance: Memphis Crisis Center, 901-274-7477; Alliance Health Crisis Center, 901- 577-9400; or 1-800-273-TALK.
- Lynn Norment is a Memphis journalist who previously was an editor and senior writer for Ebony magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.
It’s been a tough year. Few would dispute that. Even if a miracle occurred in the next three and a half months, 2020 is marked as a year of conflict and challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the lives of so many.
There is anxiety and fear about this new disease that is leading to illness and death, to joblessness and homelessness, and uncertainty about every aspect of our lives.
Add to this distressing mix the ongoing unrest over racial injustice and numerous-ongoing police killings. And then there’s the election.
Regardless of your race or ethnicity, your job or profession, or whether you are single or married with children, these upheavals to our normal lives are nagging at our mental and physical well-being. People who were always positive and chipper are now pessimistic and surly. Those who once made others smile now need cheering up themselves.
Yet, their friends and loved ones may not be available to help, even if they know help is needed, because there are physical distancing guidelines to help stop the spread of the virus.
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A few weeks ago when former first lady Michelle Obama opened up and talked about experiencing what she called a “low-grade depression,” many people could relate to her plight. President Barack Obama said that a lot of things have upended life as we know it this year, “outrage and despair, to protests seeking racial justice, to this historic and life-altering pandemic.” She said that all of this impacted her spirit.
These and other issues have impacted the spirit of many, including me. There are many reasons to feel down, or experience a “low-grade depression.”
“With everything that’s going on, from the COVID-19 crisis to racial and political unrest to people being concerned about their jobs and the safety of their families, this is an exceptionally emotionally draining time,” says psychiatrist Courtney B. Johnson, M.D.
“We must do everything in our power to maintain and improve our own physical and mental health with self-care.”
According to Dr. Johnson and other professionals, here are some things we can do.
Improve your diet
“Self-care includes making sure you have a healthy, well-balanced diet, with adequate water consumption and five servings of fruit and vegetables each day,” advises Dr. Johnson. She adds we should limit fast foods, fried foods, caffeine, sugary beverages, and alcoholic beverages.
Dr. Johnson also points out the importance of refraining from vaping and smoking cigarettes and using recreational and street drugs, “all of which can have a negative effect on one’s physical and mental health.”
Limit exposure to news
Too much exposure to negative media, including cable news and social media posts, can impact your mood and mindset. The non-stop “breaking news” and over-the-top show hosts, along with the screaming falsehoods on social media, are enough to raise anybody’s blood pressure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests taking breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including those on social media.
“Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting,” the CDC says. Instead, get in the habit of checking for news updates in the morning and again in the evening. Watching bad news all day long is not good for your mental health.
Keep your mind relaxed
Otis Anderson III, M.D., a Memphis psychiatrist and author, emphasizes that self-care includes finding effective ways to destress. “We are accustomed to giving, providing for others, but we don’t know how to recharge ourselves,” he says. He advises incorporating your time to relax and recharge into your daily routine.
Some people meditate or practice yoga, while others read religious material daily. A friend of mine simply spends early morning quiet time sitting on her deck and listening to birds as the day awakens.
There are many ways to destress; just find what works for you.
Stay connected to dear ones
One of the most difficult aspects of surviving the pandemic is not being able to spend time with friends and love ones. “Before these unusual times, there were many things people thought were important in our lives,” says Dr. Anderson. “But now we should realize that what’s truly important are people and our relationships.”
Though we may miss the hugs and in-person gatherings, there are many ways to stay in touch. Telephone calls, text messages and social media outreach can brighten your day but also the person with whom you connect. My nieces occasionally host Zoom cocktail hours to stay in touch with cousins of their generation.
Other families with members scattered around the country do the same.
A couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary invited love ones to a casual one-hour Zoom get-together. Take time to call friends and relatives just to see how they were doing. Not only does it lift their spirits, it makes you feel good also. A close friend texted me a photograph of a pair of $90 shoes she purchased for $1.49 (with sales discounts and special coupons). That text and follow-up telephone conversation certainly lifted my spirits.
Exercise as much as possible
To keep the mind and body strong, we must exercise regularly. It is recommended that we get 150 minutes of cardio exercise a week. Get out and walk, jog or ride your bike while enjoying the weather.
Take a stroll around the neighborhood before sundown. Local and state parks are open, so are lakefronts and riverfronts. The key is to maintain physical distance and not congregate.
Working in your yard or garden also burns calories, as does housework.
Be creative to make sure you get your exercise.
I know two ladies who log in 10,000 steps a day at least six days a week by dancing around the house to music. Or maybe you prefer to work out on a treadmill or exercise bike.
The goal is to stay active and keep your mind and body stimulated.
Establish dedicated workspace
If you work from home, carve out a workspace, whether that is your home office, a desk in the family room, or an end of the dining room table. It should be separate from where you relax or sleep.
Make sure you have the needed technology, such as laptop, mouse and monitor, to do your job. Set a schedule and prepare yourself as though you are going to the office.
Get up at the same time each workday, jog or workout, shower, eat a decent breakfast, and dress appropriately for face-to-face tech meetings.
Prepare a to-do list for each day, hour by hour. You should feel a sense of accomplishment as you check items off. Take time for lunch and breaks. And when possible end your workday at a regular time each day, though you may be tempted to work longer.
Now is the time to take care of yourself and reflect on the positive aspects of your life rather than the negative things happening in our world.
Find your own joy, and spread some cheer as well.
Lynn Norment is a Memphis journalist who previously was an editor and senior writer for Ebony magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.