As restrictions imposed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic begin to lift, there’s pressure from employers, family and friends to go back to a “normal life.” But after 15 months of being isolated and afraid of numerous unknowns, the idea of rushing back into the world is stressful for some.
In addition, many Americans are still dealing with anxiety, depression and other mental health struggles after losing loved ones and are shouldering tremendous uncertainty. In January 2021, about 40 percent of American adults reported symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder, a nearly four-fold increase from a similar time period two years earlier.
For some people, boosting mental health may require counseling, medication and time. For others, more natural remedies may have a significant impact. In fact, a combination of medical and non-medical mental health treatments may be the ticket for most people. Here are three natural ways to manage mental health during this transitional time period.
Biophilia is the idea that humans need to be in close contact with nature to thrive. Numerous studies have shown that when people spend time only around man-made objects, their health and quality of life begins to decline. Even looking at house plants or sitting near a window can help you feel better.
One natural way to manage mental health is to make sure you spend time outdoors every day. In Japan, doctors can prescribe a practice called shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing.” But don’t wait for a visit to a primary care physician to begin. Plan a day at the beach or lake. Go for a walk in a park or hike on a nearby trail (this has the added benefit of providing exercise, which can also be a natural way to improve mental health). Or sit on a deck or porch and enjoy the surrounding trees, plants and views.
A tremendous amount of new research is showing that the health of your digestive tract is strongly linked to the health of your brain. Having the right mix of probiotic bacteria, yeasts and other microbes in your belly and intestines can do a lot to boost your mental health; the wrong mix can do just the opposite.
In addition, eating things like sugar, other sweeteners and processed foods may worsen depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. One of the best natural ways to manage mental health is to eat right. As much as possible, eliminate sugar and processed foods and focus on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Add in a few probiotic foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut or kimchi, for good measure.
One of the most important ways to help improve mental health post-COVID-19 may be to slowly ease back into life. See if your employer is willing to extend work-from-home policies, at least for a few months. Start by visiting with friends and family outside on nice days. Enjoy outdoor activities, such as concerts and restaurants, before easing into indoor gatherings. Continue wearing a mask (you can always tell people you’re hoping to avoid the colds, flus and other germs that will inevitably start circulating now that people are out and about).
Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. When the pandemic happened, everything came to a screeching halt. Remember how hard that sudden transition was for everyone? The return to a post-COVID world doesn’t have to be that same drastic change. Take it one step at a time for your health as well as your mental health.