If you’ve felt off lately, you’re not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things about our world, and how it’s affected our self-care and mental health is not among the least of those things. In our recent WomanUP workshop, our panelists Dr. Cynthia King and LaToya Ellis, MHA joined us for a frank discussion of mental wellness in community.
Feelings of isolation, increased stress, and uncertainty are totally normal during this time, explained Dr. Cynthia King. One of the consequences of living through this pandemic, she said, is that daily life stressors have increased for many of her clients.
“Loss of community is a big one,” she added. “Community is something that women tend to do really well, especially by comparison to my male clients. Many women are experiencing significantly reduced interaction with their peers, coworkers, play groups…. the list goes on! This creates isolation and less support, which increases anxiety and depression.”
COVID-19 has also been especially triggering for many people due to the loss of power and control, as well as the uncertainty of what will happen next, and when. This is reminiscent of a traumatic environment.
In light of all of this, LaToya advised that everyone be mindful to give themselves extra grace during this time. When thinking of how to manage stress, she encouraged workshop attendees to start small: taking a few mindful breaths, not putting pressure on yourself to do everything in one day, and to rest.
In addition to the usual recommendations of eating well, getting enough rest, and trying to stay active, here are other some suggestions that LaToya and Dr. King had for taking care of yourself inside and out. We asked our workshop participants to chime in, too.
Right now, it’s important to find a balance between leaning into your feelings and using active coping mechanisms to change the negative emotions you may be experiencing. Tidying up and cleaning might not seem like it will help, but our surroundings can influence mood mroe than we might think.
Becky A., one of our participants, said that lately, she’s been finding comfort in purging items. Our own Chamber president Kit Cramer shared how she recently deep cleaned her attic, and she felt “much better” afterwards.
Taking action can relieve stress; it’s also helpful to feel in control, noted Dr. King. If you don’t know where to start, pick one room of the house, set a timer for 15 minutes, and do as much as you can. Chances are, you’ll want to keep going!
Dr. King is a self-proclaimed big fan of sleep; “it affects everything else,” she explains. If you find yourself tossing and turning, developing good sleep hygiene habits may help. Limiting media consumption before bedtime is helpful, as well as establishing a winding-down routine for your body with a hot shower, reading a book, etc.
Intentionally introducing mindfulness into your day can go a long way. Intentional relaxation, gratitude journaling, and meditation are just a few of the recommendations our workshop participants had for each other.
Becky A. said that increasing her yoga and meditation practice has been a “game-changer” for her during this time.
If you are new to the world of mindfulness, there are plenty of helpful apps available for free that make it easy. Calm and Headspace both came up several times as apps worth looking into for guided meditation and slowing down.
This is a big one for LaToya. “We’re all doing this for the very first time. Our work environments are different, and our home environments are different, and we’re all just figuring this out.” She suggests staying flexible with your expectations – both for yourself, and others.
Part 2: Physical Wellness is scheduled for September 24th.
WomanUP is an initiative created by the Asheville Area Chamber in 2016 for women in business who wish to build a strong network of other women to inspire and support each other and create a legacy in the Asheville community. WomanUP accomplishes this through networking events, professional workshops, and an annual awards ceremony to celebrate outstanding female leaders in the community.