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If you ask most people how they are doing right now, and they answer honestly, they will probably tell you that life is hard. They may acknowledge what they have, such as their health or a safe place to quarantine, and express gratitude for these things.
But, deep down, most people are struggling as they live through the COVID-19 pandemic and frightening current events. Our country has faced political divide and violent riots, including the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. At the same time, some people believe in conspiracy theories and refuse to wear masks, denying the fact that COVID-19 is real and the election results are valid.
Overall, there is a lot of chaos, anxiety, fear, and sadness in the air, making managing anxiety and depression even harder. Add in a desire to find love and not give up on dating, and let’s just say, it’s OK to feel like your plate is full!
Below are eight ways to keep your mental health in check as you navigate dating during the pandemic and staying sane despite what’s going on in the world:
The loss of lives, jobs, traditions, time with friends and family, vacations, social gatherings, and much more can really take a toll on your mental health. It can be challenging to reconcile what life has looked like this past year and how long we have been living more isolated lives.
It’s natural to feel drained and sad as you process these losses. If you are feeling down, anxious, shocked, or angry, or you notice changes in your appetite or sleep, you may be experiencing grief. Labeling what you are feeling as grief is a helpful step toward managing your emotions and taking good care of yourself.
Understand that grief is a universal experience and a natural reaction to living through a pandemic. Allow yourself room to feel your feelings (instead of pushing them away) and reach out to your support system. Check out this article for specific tips on processing the death of a loved one during the pandemic.
Keeping an active lifestyle looks a bit different in the COVID-19 era, but there’s a lot you can do to keep up with your physical and cardiovascular health.
Even a 30-minute brisk walk around your neighborhood can do wonders for your mental health while helping you stay fit and active. Signing up for a virtual fitness class, a yoga program, or a workout challenge of your choice is another solid option for keeping up with exercise.
Regardless of your work situation, it’s important to embrace structure around sleep, meals, exercise, down time, and time management, in general. You will feel better if you go to bed and wake up around the same time every day and focus on healthy habits around sleep. Sleeping well will ensure you have the energy to be productive while promoting a positive mindset.
Try to eat healthy meals and snacks throughout the day (even if you don’t have an appetite). Take breaks throughout the day, especially if you are looking at a screen or sitting in a chair for hours on end. It may not feel like you have special plans, events, or activities out of the house to look forward to, but do your best to stay engaged with your hobbies, interests, and goals and make these a part of your routine.
If you are feeling emotionally depleted or very anxious, it may feel difficult to stay motivated with self-care. If you are feeling physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heart rate, upset stomach, or sweaty palms, work on grounding yourself through your breath. Check out these breathing exercises for some ideas.
Also, repeat affirmative statements or mantras, such as “I can handle this” and use gentle, calm, and constructive language to talk yourself through anxiety or depression triggers. The way you respond to your thoughts and fears will make a huge difference in how you feel and how confident you are handling them.
When we are feeling anxious about what is going on in the world, we often try to calm our worry with information, potentially creating a vicious cycle of more worry or exhaustion from information overload. This is why setting limits around your exposure and screen time is essential to mental health.
This may mean taking a social media break, limiting how much time you are spending Googling or reading news reports online, being very particular about what you read and which sites you access, etc.
You are probably spending more time alone due to the pandemic, but it’s important to stay connected to others. If you are feeling lonely, virtual hangouts, online peer-support groups, and outdoor distanced social plans may be just what you need.
Remember to reach out to a licensed mental health professional if you have concerns about your mental health and would like extra support. Telehealth appointments are a great way to get mental health treatment while staying safe in the comfort of your own home.
Getting wrapped up in what you can’t control (for example, when the pandemic will end, when you will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, or when/if your date will ask you out again) is likely to increase feelings of anxiety, anger, and grief.
Instead, focus on what is in your control and what you can change. For example, you are in control of avoiding plans and activities that present a high risk of COVID-19 exposure, what types of dates you go on, how you spend your free time (yes, there are limitations but there is still a lot you can do virtually or outside), what you eat for meals, etc.
If you are working from home due to the pandemic, the lines between work life and home life may be especially blurry. If you are feeling restless or bored spending so much time alone indoors, you may find yourself throwing yourself into work long after the work day ends. It may also be appealing to avoid your feelings and distract yourself through your work.
All of these scenarios are especially likely if you are prone to workaholic tendencies. To avoid burning yourself out, create daily habits to assist you in becoming more detached from your work.
This may mean setting boundaries around when you can check and reply to work emails, schedule meetings, or complete work tasks. This also means finding ways to enjoy your life outside of work through hobbies, personal interests, dating, and important relationships.
Life certainly doesn’t look the same as it did pre-COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean your mental health has to suffer. Use the above eight strategies to maintain healthy habits designed to optimize your physical and mental health.