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Keeping a Positive Mindset During Tough Times

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We can all agree that 2020 has brought unprecedented challenges, with much of it being out of our control. The coronavirus pandemic has changed every aspect of daily life, from home and health to education and social activities.  

If you feel frustrated or angry because of so much uncertainty, you’re in good company. Many others feel the same way, especially in areas where COVID-19 cases are rising, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA is tracking how Americans are coping with the extreme stress during the pandemic and publishing special reports every few months called Stress in AmericaTM  2020: Stress in the Time of COVID-19.  

What will 2021 look like when so much is unknown month to month? We won’t know until it arrives. While it’s entirely valid to feel apprehensive and pessimistic at times, there are steps you can take to go into the new year with an improved outlook that’s open to possibility and opportunity.  

Looking Ahead With Confidence 

Here are 10 tips for coping with stress and trying to stay positive:  

  1. Be Kind to Yourself  

Recognize that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations based on their personal circumstances and life experiences. Also, realize that you’re not alone: The changes that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary measures required to contain the spread of the virus affected everyone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises.  

  1. Take Time to Reflect on Successes 

Focus on what you have accomplished by keeping a journal, the APA recommends. Write about past challenges you’ve overcome, things you did that helped and strategies that might improve your ability to cope the next time life throws you a curveball.  

  1. Learn Something New 

Developing new skills and expanding your knowledge in areas that interest you are an excellent way to move life forward and distract yourself from negativity. Try an online continuing education course for professional development or just for fun to learn something new.  

Coursera offers courses from leading universities and companies on a wide variety of topics, including many for free. For example, “The Science of Well-Being” provided by Yale University will engage you in a series of challenges designed to boost happiness and build more productive habits. MasterClass offers paid classes taught by leading experts in fields like culinary arts, gardening, business, science and technology, creative writing, and photography.  

  1. Take Breaks From the News 

Checking the news or social media repeatedly can be upsetting, the CDC says. Decide how much time you want to spend getting up to date from reliable sources and stick to your plan. Reliable sources include:  

  1. Prioritize 

Make a list of your personal, professional and family priorities, and then use these as cornerstones to guide you while you make a to-do list. Group the tasks according to those you must complete, those you can delegate to others and those you can postpone. A shorter, smarter and more achievable to-do list is far less stressful than feeling like everything is an urgent, top priority.   

  1. Control What You Can 

Don’t dwell on things you can’t control. Sticking to a routine can provide a sense of normalcy and help you stay positive in uncertain times. Simple things like putting on work clothes, even if you’re working from home, can help.  

  1. Find Perspective

Sometimes you may have unrealistic expectations and be hard on yourself for not managing life well. One way to avoid this negativity trap is to think about what you would say to a good friend to help them feel more positive and optimistic. You deserve to benefit from that same advice.  

  1. Stay Connected 

Keep in touch with friends and share tips for staying motivated. While social distancing measures are in place, you can connect with family and friends in free online video calls through Skype, Zoom and Google Meet.  

  1. Take Care of Your Body 

The CDC says that these healthy activities help combat stress and enhance overall well-being:  

  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals 

  • Exercise regularly 

  • Get a good night’s sleep   

  • Stretch and take deep breaths 

PTSD Coach is a free smartphone app created by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Designed for people who have or may have PTSD, it contains resources for coping and building resilience, including exercises for deep breathing, positive imagery and muscle relaxation. 

  1. Seek Professional Help 

If you’re having difficulty staying positive and optimistic, there’s no shame in seeking professional help. Mental health is an essential part of overall health and well-being, affecting how we think, feel, act, handle stress and relate to others.  

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can cause the following, according to the CDC:  

  • Changes in eating or sleep patterns 

  • Difficulty concentrating or sleeping  

  • Fear and worry about your financial situation or job and any support services you rely on 

  • Fear and worry about your health and the health of your loved ones 

  • Worsening of existing chronic health or mental health issues  

Call your doctor if stress and reactions to stress are getting in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. 

Putting Your Whole Health First: Body, Mind and Spirit 

Your mental health matters every day. But right now, you may need a little more TLC mentally and emotionally — and that’s fine.  

Whatever support you need, we hope these free mental health resources help you feel a little more at ease. You can also request an appointment, in-person or through a virtual visit with one of our mental health experts.  

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