Home Coronavirus Self-care and mental health in a pandemic

Self-care and mental health in a pandemic

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Students walking on Grand Rapids Community College's campus at the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester.

By Breegan Petruska

For many of us, this pandemic has been one of the most stressful times in our lives. As a nation, we are dealing with so much right now. We are going through a worldwide pandemic, a fight for racial equality, an election, and so much more on top of the stresses of our day to day lives. 

As college students, we are being thrown into this stage of new beginnings as we become adults. Many of us are voting in our first election, learning who we are as a person, deciding what we believe in, and teaching ourselves online college classes. 

The little things in life start to add up and negatively affect our mental health. 

Depression, anxiety, fear, and loneliness are just a few things that can come out of all this stress and worry. We are worried about our family and friend’s health, whether or not we’re going to be laid off due to the pandemic, how we’re going to pay our bills, where our next meal is going to come from. 

There are ways that we can cope and work through these mental health struggles. 

Learning self-care is so important during this pandemic. More of us are home and have extra time on our hands, so why not spend some of that time focusing on bringing happiness into our lives. 

Eating right and exercising is a good first step in taking care of ourselves. Not only will your body start to feel better, but you can take that time to learn to cook. Exercising is hard to get into. Finding the motivation to go to the gym or get out of bed can be difficult, but over time, exercise builds endorphins which help with happiness. 

Megan Weygandt, 23, of Chicago has changed a huge part of her life and improved her mental health through exercise and healthy eating.

“Proper nutrition and exercise are the foundations to a higher quality of living. While it doesn’t seem like it, they both have immense benefits,” says Weygandt. “When you eat what your body needs you can find improvement in your mood, fewer cravings, feel more satisfied, improved sleep quality, and improved digestion.”

Cleaning your room, your kitchen, or your whole house or apartment is a great way to put time towards yourself. Many people are struggling with mental health, finding the motivation to clean or get organized, it can be very difficult. Getting organized, donating unused items and clothes, and having an open clean space can make things easier by eliminating the worry of the mess. 

Adopting or fostering a pet has been proven to bring happiness and improve mental health. Pets bring unconditional love and companionship. They can help reduce stress and anxiety. In Grand Rapids, there are many options for adopting. You can see some of those animals here.

“Go for a 10-minute walk, stretch a few minutes a day, clean the house, find fun new recipes to try,” says Weygandt. “The most important thing is to take things slow for yourself but push yourself to make those small changes for your own health and peace of mind.”

When your mental health is dwindling, it can be scary to reach out to others for help, but reaching out for help can potentially save your life. 

In Grand Rapids, there are many organizations and resources available to help in these cases. Last year, Pine Rest opened the first psychiatric urgent care center in West Michigan. They have walk-in and virtual appointments available seven days a week. You can find more information here.

Network180 is a great service that not only provides assistance in mental health crises but also helps in mental health and diversity training. Other than mental health, they also assist in substance abuse, disabilities, and children and family assistance. 

The Hope Network is another local resource. Their goal is to help and serve those in our community. They have referrals, screenings, therapy and counseling sessions, etc. If you or someone you know could benefit, you can learn more about their services here.