DETROIT – Over the course of the COVID pandemic, we’ve picked up a lot of habits -- and some may be worth hanging onto after the pandemic ends.
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has been stressful. Levels of reported and diagnosed anxiety and depression has been on the rise since spring 2020.
“When we’re not in a pandemic, when we were stressed, what did we do? We’d go to the gym. We’d go on vacation. We’d do all the things we identify with pre-pandemic that were not possible during shut down,” said Dr. Rose Moten.
During the pandemic, we turned to other things to take a break -- baking bread, dancing, puzzles and a lot of TV binging -- but as we look ahead to a return to pre-pandemic life, mental health experts believe it’ll be helpful to keep some of the habits around.
Doctors at Henry Ford Health System put together a list of 15 habits to keep after the pandemic. It includes things like hand washing and exercising -- both key for physical health, but when it comes to mental and emotional health, there are some habits that a bit less obvious.
“We have to prioritize just keeping those things in our lives because it’s so easy to get back to that rat race, as we call it, of living where you just work come home and repeat the next morning,” Moten said.
Near the top of the list is decluttering your home. Maybe it’s cleaning out the closet or putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls, but decluttering helps ease the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Also, keep creating -- many of us got in touch with our inner artist or musician. It’s a sure-fire and healthy way to express all that stress.
“Hobbies are excellent in just helping to increase our focus, our concentration. They’re great in helping us to stay mindful,” Moten said. “There was an urging of wanting to just connect to something I knew would be soothing to me and many people just really revisited hobbies they long discarded because they felt they didn’t have the time or they discovered new hobbies.”
Outside the house, it’s important to keep in touch with nature. Keep taking daily walks, make time for a picnic or set aside time to keep up those gardens that so many of us started.
“One of the things we know is that when you get your hands in that dirt, and you’re out in nature gardening, it helps to to keep you in this present state, this mindful state,” Moten said. “We know there’s tons of literature out there, research that talks about mindfulness and keeping us just emotionally well and stable and balanced.”
Then there are the thing we do together. It’s important to keep making time for video chats with loved ones and checking in on neighbors.
“Helping your neighbors, connecting with folks -- even if it’s over the internet -- it makes us feel good,” Moten said. “It releases those feel good chemicals or endorphins, oxytocin, all of those things that really give us this feeling of fulfillment and well being and even euphoria.”
Make sure you make time for your family. Even if you have been cooped up with them for more than a year as the pull of going back to work gets stronger.
“The work is going to be there. The work is going to be there, but you don’t want to miss out on the time that you have with your family because the kids won’t always be there,” Moten said.
All of these habits come down to one big thing: setting aside time, every when it feel hard to do.
“If nothing else, this pandemic taught us how quickly things can change in an instant,” Moten said. “It’s so important for us to really learn to appreciate the people in our lives that we love and we value and never again take that for granted.”
Keeping those pandemic habits can help keep the work/life balance in check.
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