2020 has been an uncertain and stressful year. COVID-19, and its many consequential effects, have led to some very difficult moments. The loss of loved ones, livelihoods and freedoms that we take for granted have been difficult to bear. It has been painful to watch socially unjust events unfold and witness suffering on a seemingly endless news cycle. All this combined with a contentious election — it’s fair to say that 2020 has impacted us all.
Many of us have had firsthand experience with anxiety and depression this year. Some have struggled with significant symptoms of mental distress for the first time ever. However, despite these stressors, there are reasons for optimism. And there are many ways to build a buffer of strength to help you cope with all that 2020 has brought us.
Finding ways to take care of yourself, knowing when to reach out for support — and knowing where to find that support — are critical to managing stress and building your resilience. Here are some suggestions that may be helpful.
Stay Connected. Connections with friends and family have helped boost us through the pandemic, and they continue to be important to mental well-being. Foster those relationships, whether face-to-face, on a video call or with a phone call. Staying connected to others improves our own capacity for compassion, with the benefit of mutual support.
Reframe your thoughts. Feeling a sense of control can often reduce worry and stress. One way to accomplish this is by reframing your thoughts in a positive way. Take a few deep breaths, think over the situation and how you feel, then challenge your thoughts in a way that focuses on the positive. Whether it’s counterproductive thoughts, or how stressors affect you, breaking the cycle of pessimism helps improve your outlook.
Avoid negativity. Limit your media exposure, or restrict it to positive and uplifting sources. The added tension from a constant cycle of bad news and negativity can prompt a sense of threat, leading to anxious feelings.
Express gratitude. Think of something different each day that you’re thankful for. Recognizing what you can appreciate is beneficial to stress management.
Take care of your health. Improving your physical health strengthens your mental health, and can start with a few small steps toward your goals.
Spend time on your interests. Make it a point to cultivate your interests and hobbies. Whether you enjoy games, creative pursuits or hands-on activities, even a few minutes dedicated to these can be restorative. If you’re not sure where to start, think of topics that you find interesting and then explore possibilties.
Make note of what helps and then build on it. Identify the positive methods that you already use to manage stress and anxiety. As an example, if your go-to coping tools are deep breathing and stretching, consider adding a brisk walk or trying yoga. These may help calm anxiety and offer further relief.
Ask for help when you need it. As you work on building resilience, don’t forget that you’re not alone. When the anxiety, sadness or other symptoms become overwhelming, it’s time to reach out for help.