Updated: Jul 27, 2020
See what Rishika from Student Engineers Educating Kids (SEEK) has to say about maintaining your mental health this summer.
Q: What do you do to keep your mental health afloat?
A: Hi and Happy Monday! Rishika from UT SEEK here to give y'all some ideas and tips on how to maintain and better your mental health during this summer in lockdown and beyond! Quarantine and working from home can take a huge toll on our mental health, so let’s explore some (realistic) ways to protect our mental health during this tumultuous period.
1. Stay Connected
We’re fundamentally social beings, and during crises, it’s natural to want to gather, but it’s the opposite of what we can do right now. So, we have to be creative, to maintain both mental closeness and a sense of community as social connectivity is perhaps the greatest determinant of wellbeing there is. It is the right time to catch up with acquaintances and really connect with your close friends and family, who also need your connectivity and support now. Zoom calls, online games, and daily Facetime calls are a couple of ways I have stayed updated on my friends this summer. Although interacting online is not nearly the same as in-person, the ability for us to still interact and communicate is extremely helpful for mental health. It’s important to strike a balance between having a routine and making sure each day has some social variety. Social distancing does not mean we have to stop socializing and talking, it is up to us to find safe ways to keep our social lives intact. The lockdown is a great opportunity to catch up with those you have lost touch with and let your friends know what you have been up to.
2. Get Active
Your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins before and after you work out, which is why exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. With weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic ahead, it is important to stay active in your own way. During the lockdown, I’ve been doing regular workouts at home (aka Chloe Ting and Pamela Reif have been kicking my butt) to stay focused and feel good. It’s the perfect way to clear the mind and make progress! It can be difficult to start an at-home exercise routine, but there are tons of options, including many online workout sources that are offering free access to their videos and resources. One of the few silver linings of the current COVID-19 situation is the ability to spend time with pets and family members who may also be in lockdown with you. Participating in physical activity together (whilst adhering to social distancing measures of course) is a great way to hold yourself accountable to a routine of activity. Overall, anything that gets your heart pumping or builds muscle is excellent for both physical and mental health! It’s also important to supplement your exercise with a healthy and balanced diet that can work wonders for your immune system and mental state.
3. Be Creative
A new hobby or project is a good way to pursue something you’ve been long ignoring. Plenty of activities can be tried for the first time at home, and many of them are therapeutic great stress-relievers. You never know, you might just surprise yourself! It’s also important to remember you don’t necessarily have to be good at everything (I have had my share of below-average banana breads). It’s important to do these things just for fun such as creative tasks that should relax you. I have found cooking and baking to be a great way to explore cuisines and dishes during lockdown (highly recommend trying to make homemade pasta and sauces!). If cooking and baking isn’t your thing, numerous other activities such as embroidery and puzzles can be calming and a great break in the day. This is the summer to take advantage of the tasks and hobbies we have been meaning to do. After all, the most important aspect of creating is enjoying the process. The more you enjoy, the more likely you are to continue and potentially find something you would like to continue doing. We have the time and energy to do the things we truly love. What better time than now!
4. Try to Stay Positive!
Mental health and positive thinking go hand and hand, but it can be quite easy to lose hope amidst all the negativity surrounding our lives right now. However, trying your best to stay positive and find reasons to be happy in the uncertainty. It is these times alone and in confinement that we can also come to the realization that everything is temporary, that we need to be humble, to be kind, and empathetic to one another as everyone has their own burden to carry. Although it takes a significant amount of effort to stay positive in the current climate, having hope and keeping faith in a better future are what keep us motivated. Appreciating those in our lives and being thankful for what we have is what will pull us together and hopefully bring us out of this period stronger than before. It is as important as ever to celebrate the small wins (getting to watch Avatar on Netflix was a big win for me) and continue to stay passionate about the things you care about. I have found that a change in scenery every once in a while, is able to shift my mood and outlook and bring me more positivity about my tasks for the day. This is a great time for setting new goals, self-reflection and evaluating the priorities you have set for yourself. Asking yourself questions like; who do I want to be at the end of this pandemic? What can I do to come out of this stronger, happier, and more satisfied? It is a great time to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses and make new commitments to ourselves. I have frequently found myself planning future trips that I want to do once quarantine is over and it is safe to do so. While it is easy to be sad about failed plans, planning for the future has given me something to be excited and comforted by. These are trying times, but this too shall pass and thus it is paramount to try our best to stay positive and better our daily lives as much as we can.
While these tips are geared towards the lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to try to keep our mental health afloat every day. We can take this time to learn how to better recognize our strengths and work on our weaknesses by talking through issues and seeking help. Letting go of illusions of control and finding peace in the fact that you are doing your part to “flatten the curve” will certainly build mental strength to combat the stressful situation the whole globe is experiencing. Staying positive and connected to the ones around us will help all bring us out of this period with our mental health stronger than ever.
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SEEK (Student Engineers Educating Kids), is a mentorship program led and run by UT Engineering students to provide low-income elementary and middle school students the opportunity to explore the idea of higher education and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) fields. Through SEEK, we believe that we can encourage and inspire kids to be the engineers of tomorrow.
This blog post was written by Rishika Prakash from SEEK. Rishika is a junior government & business and public policy student and is SEEK's VP of Public Relations.