For World Mental Health Day, and with her background in social psychology, Ms. Yasmin Nooreddin (Fulbright Jordanian Alumna) wrote this essential and compelling article where she shares 10 ways to adjust and thrive during uncertain times.
Since the advent of the pandemic, ensuing measures to control it have impacted each and everyone of us. Whether it is the lock-down, health challenges, loss of loved ones, new ways of working/schooling, or layoffs, we all felt the repercussions. Without a doubt, we’ve been collectively thrust into a transformational “boot-camp” by no choice of ours; some buckled under the pressure. According to a recent World Health Organization survey, the pandemic has disrupted mental health services in 93% of the countries worldwide, despite the fact that the demand for such services has increased.
For many of us, our balance has been disrupted; some of us have put on unwanted extra weight, others have been unable to focus while working from home, while some have been struggling with depressive thoughts. So what can we do as individuals to cope with the uncertainties and the challenges imposed by current circumstances? How can we improve our well-being? What constitutes our “being” ? We are mind, body, and soul.
Having a healthy mind, body, and soul and establishing balance of these three components contributes to a healthy well-being. There is no magical one-size-fits-all solution, but here are some suggested tips on how to reclaim our balance and get used to the new normal. This can also be a great opportunity for personal growth and transformation.
Clear and liberate your mind by being in the present moment. According to studies, this makes us happier, alleviates stress and better enables us to deal with negative emotions like fear and anger (Halliwell, 2017).
Most of us have little choice in what is happening at the moment, whether it is the curfews/ lockdown or layoffs, but we can control how we react to circumstances and what we focus on (refer to Steven R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book for more information). If you tend to slip into the victim mentality and get bogged down with negative thoughts, it’s time to snap out of it and focus on what you can influence: your mood, your thoughts, and how you’re spending your time. For example, instead of wasting my time and energy worrying, I can exercise or focus on a constructive activity.
In the Arab world, it is common to answer AlhamduliAllah (praise and thanks to God) when asked how you’re doing, but how many of us truly experience its meaning? According to positive psychology research, there’s a correlation between gratitude and greater happiness (Harvard Business Review, 2019). So instead of thinking of all the things irritating you, try keeping a journal of all the good things; don’t forget to include the small things and those we often take for granted (e.g. that we have healthy eyes and we’re able to read this article). ِAs one of my teachers once said: How much would one pay to get their eyesight back (God-forbid they lose it).... a million dollars? Well, we have it for free.
For the perfectionists among us, it’s time to forgive yourself if things aren’t going as smoothly as you’d like; this is uncharted territory for all of us. Remember this is a chance to stretch our resilience muscle and work on our adaptability. In fact, resilience is considered to be one of the main qualities leaders of tomorrow will need to navigate uncertain times. So get up, dust off the dirt; keep calm and carry on!
For many of us, our schedules and responsibilities have been disrupted. A good way to manage the chaos is to control it as much as possible. Establishing a new routine will not only help you reclaim control over events, it will also have a positive impact on your mental health. According to Northwestern Medicine; it reduces stress levels, improves sleep and leads to better overall health. If you’re working from home, having physical separation or a designated area for “work” and “rest” spaces, can help in creating boundaries between the two. It can also help in preventing associated emotions from spilling over.
Take care of your body and boost your immunity by eating healthy food and exercising, even if it means following an online exercise video. Enjoy the outdoors more often. In Japan, they practice the tradition of “forest bathing”; it’s not merely a hike, but a chance to connect with nature with all the senses. According to Time Magazine, “A two-hour forest bath will help you to unplug from technology and slow down. It will bring you into the present moment and de-stress and relax you.” (Qing Li, 2018). Forests may not be available in every landscape, but an intentional walk in the backyard or growing your own plants may have a similar positive impact. What matters is to resist the temptation of becoming a couch potato,instead, be kind to yourself.
Be gentle and empathetic to others; we are all grappling with the new normal. Be intentional and surprise someone with a small and sincere act of kindness. Remember that being kind doesn’t only have a positive impact on others, it also improves your mood and boosts neurotransmitters in your brain (serotonin and dopamine) responsible for feelings of well-being and pleasure (Mayo Clinic Health Systems, 2020).
Now is your chance to pursue that hobby you never had time for. It will help you channel your time and energy towards a positive constructive medium, as opposed to a negative destructive one, such as focusing on your frustrations. For some, that new hobby turned into a new business idea, without prior planning. Positive input leads to positive outcomes!
The secret of our being lies in our soul, so take care of it. Connecting with the Divine, the Source of existence, has a positive impact on our being. According to some studies, regular worship has been linked to reduced probability of developing severe depression and improving coping skills (Fruehwirth, 2016).
Having peace from within, makes it shine from without. It doesn’t mean that we won’t face hardships nor setbacks, it simply means that we will deal with them differently and in a more meaningful way. Acknowledge your current feelings (positive or negative) and understand where they’re coming from and why. Don’t underestimate the power of introspection; it helps in increasing your self awareness, the bedrock of emotional intelligence.
Try some or all of these tips to reclaim a balanced healthy being. Remember that everything happens for a reason and every cloud has a silver lining. Cultivate a growth mindset and seize the opportunity to transform yourself. Resist the inner voice that may be complaining to you: “I can’t change, this is who I am”. As one of my spiritual teachers says:
“We are not meant to be, we are meant to become” (Maghraoui, 2018)
Life is a journey and we can all transform to a better version of ourselves; let’s take the first step to a more healthy being.
This article was written by our Jordanian Alumna, Ms. Yasmin Nooreddin for World Mental Health Day. She was awarded the Fulbright Foreign Student Scholarship for the 2012-2014 Academic Cycle, and went on to obtain her Masters in Social-Organizational Psychology from the prestigious Teachers College at Columbia University in New York. World Mental Health Day is annually observed on October 10th to promote mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against cultural and social stigma.