DEAR DR. JENN,
I generally have a pretty sunny disposition, but after two months of barely leaving my house, I feel like I've reached my breaking point. My moods have taken a serious nose dive. I'm doing all.the.things — yoga, eating right, connecting with friends on Zoom — but I'm struggling to keep a positive outlook wih all of the uncertainty in the world. How do I shift my mindset?—Negative State of Mind
It's natural that your normally positive outlook is being tested right now. These are remarkably stressful times for everyone, whether you're a healthcare worker or essential worker on the frontline, have a loved one who is sick, are facing unemployment or loneliness while self-isolating, or are struggling with trying to be the best parent or partner you can be. (And the list goes on)
Now that we're a few months into this pandemic, many people are running on autopilot and struggling with quarantine burnout.
The positive behaviors you're already implementing are a good foundation to jump of off, but adding new habits to your routine can help shake things up. Here, 8 ways to shift your emotional state and stay positive during COVID-19.
1. Start your day with a gratitude practice.
It may sound corny, but actively focusing on what you're grateful for before you reach for your phone to scroll Instagram can make a huge difference — trust. This puts you in a positive mindset and can even fight depression. There are a number of ways to do this. You can make a gratitude list in writing or start a gratitude journal. You can write a gratitude letter to someone who has impacted your life. You can find a gratitude friend and start each day by texting each other something you are grateful for. If you are living with a partner, make an effort to tell them something he or she does that you appreciate.
2. Change your scenery.
Okay, so your vacation plans may be put on hold at the moment, but that doesn't mean you can’t make some small changes at home. You don't need to buy new furniture to shake things up, but breaking up visual patterns can help shift your mood. Move your kitchen table or desk so you are looking out a different window while you work. Put up a new poster or move your favorite piece of art in your house to a new spot. If you're really looking to mix things up, sleep with your head where your feet usually are to (literally) shift your outlook when you wake up in the morning. Yes, it's a little wacky, but these are wacky times.
On the topic of re-inventing your space, now is this is a perfect time to rid your home of anything that isn't serving you. If the Marie Kondo life isn't for you, hear mne out: Clutter has been linked to depression, procrastination, and stress. At a time like this, anything you can do that helps your mental state and makes your environment nice is good in my book. You may not be able to control when they discover a vaccine, but you can control the stack of books on your dining room table.
4. Search for meaning.
Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who studied people who survived the concentration camps. He believed that when we are not able to change our situation, we are challenged to change ourselves and how we react. He believed we can choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances (even a concentration camp), and that is our ultimate human freedom that can never be taken away. Use this pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen your abilities when it comes to changing your mindset. If you're looking for a new quarantine read, picking up his book, Man's Search for Meaning, is a good place to start.
5. Step out of your comfort zone.
I don’t cook. My mother raised me on Lean Cuisine frozen food since she didn’t either. In quarantine, I've learned to follow recipes. I'm cooking. I'm baking. I even made popsicles from scratch. It's a simple thing that I have accomplished that has changed my self-concept, made me feel more resourceful and has provided my family with delicious (mostly!) nutritious food. It doesn't have to be cooking, but stepping out of your comfort zone and taking up a new skill or hobby can help shake up your routine, and in turn, your attitude.
6. Pray or meditate.
You don’t have to be religious to pray. My favorite non-secular prayer is the serenity prayer, which I keep by my bed and on a sign in my office. At a time like this, it is a great reminder to work on acceptance while being proactive about prevention and planning for the future. Studies show that prayer and meditation can lower our reactivity to trauma and negative events and even help us release oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone.
7. Be of service.
Now more than ever, there are countless ways to do that: Make masks for the essential workers, donate money to feed struggling families, clean out your closet and donate clothes to the homeless. Giving back creates a feeling of achievement and allows us to focus on something positive. In all of this darkness, helping others allows you not only to be the light, but to see the light in others.
8. Make quarantine resolutions.
We tend to think of the first of the year as being the time to evaluate our goals. But there is no time like the present. This is a great time for self-reflection, setting new goals, and evaluating your priorities. Who do you want to be at the end of this pandemic? Do you want to come out of this stronger, more resourceful and feeling good about yourself? What kind of partner do you want to be able to look back and say you were? What kind of parent do you hope to develop into? This is a great time to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and make new commitments to ourselves.
In Hump Day, award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sex and relationship questions — unjudged and unfiltered.