After writing my post earlier this week, my mind drifted to the topic of habits. If I’m being honest, I was never too interested in forming and practicing habits. I understand their value and how they can help people improve their lives – what I didn’t like was the attitude I created toward my habits, especially in the past two years. Almost every habit I’ve created since March 2020 has been to cope with the pandemic, and it’s evolved into a mix of good habits and (mostly, in my opinion) bad ones. So how can I undo this change and reset?
The first thing I wanted to explore was if other people were experiencing the same feelings I was, and I quickly found my answer. Listening to an episode of NPR’s Short Wave podcast (you can read the transcript here) helped me understand how, by and large, people in the U.S. have been coping with the pandemic for the past two years. To make a long story short, most people’s physical activity levels haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. Levels of drinking alcohol at home are still much higher, and so is the average blood pressure, in addition to many other indicators that we haven’t returned to our pre-pandemic physical habits or norms.
Even though this episode was more about the physical toll of the pandemic, it led me to reflect on the growing number of individuals who are reportedly feeling more stressed, anxious, depressed, etc. and how we can help those people get what they need.
There’s been an increase of people experiencing mental health challenges in the past few years (and for good reason), and more people than ever are learning self-care strategies and want to know how to better cope with how they’re feeling. But when I was looking through one of these many lists of how we can cope (thank you, Mayo Clinic), I noticed that a lot of these strategies are related to our physical health. And that’s when the connection between my mental health and my physical health finally kicked into place and I realized how my habits were being formed.
I have a hard time admitting it, but the choices I make surrounding my physical health and my day-to-day life have a big impact on my mental health. But I can’t put pressure on every single activity to “cure” my mental illness. I can only do things that I love or that are good from me, and try my best to do them as often as I can. It sounds fairly simple, but it’s something I’ve neglected quite a few for many years. It’s been awhile, but I think it’s time to get back on track!