Let’s be honest. 2020 has been one of the toughest years for humanity. Across cities, across countries and across continents, we all have experienced what we call a downturn. With the outburst of Covid-19 pandemic, things haven’t been any better. While the idea of confining ourselves in our houses with our loved ones may sound exciting initially, too much of anything is bad.

From the loss of lives, a persistent health scare, loss of jobs, long working hours, the pressure to manage duties in your personal and professional life, financial crunch, slipping away of opportunities and, most importantly, loss of human connection, the pandemic has hit everyone hard. The lack of positive news in mainstream media, finding escapism in social media, isolationism from the outside world coupled with loss of ‘me-time’ inside the house, are enough reasons to make anyone feel on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

As experts around the world speak of how to bring life to normal, in terms of economy and job creation among many things, we are ignoring the fact that this phase has also been tough in terms of emotional and mental well-being. With the stigma attached to depression and anxiety in India, the percentage of people willing to seek professional help is rather negligible.

If you are wondering, ‘Yes, all of this is true but what can we do about it. That’s how things are.’ Wait, pause for a second and ask ‘What can we do to break the cycle?’. I am not a mental health expert but these are some of the things that have learnt during the pandemic to keep a happy heart and healthy mind.

–  Practice Meditation: Yes, it is tough to start but it is not possible. Start with 5 minutes of guided meditation and increase your time as you go along with it. In a world that is flooded with audiovisual media, start your day by diving into silence and introspection. Find a YouTube video or a podcast that works best for you.

–  Get your daily dose of positivity: You cannot go ahead without a little dose of positivity. Even if you are a workaholic, you will not be able to give your best without passion, motivation and positivity. Pick a diary and pen down your thoughts. Listen to yourself. Make yourself your best friend. It is okay to feel low. It is okay to need a break. Notice what is troubling you, evaluate its priority in your life and see if you can look at that particular situation from a different perspective. Even if you are at zen, explore what the world has to offer. Take some time out to hear people share their journeys, their experiences and what tactics they use for self-improvement.

–   Limit your time on social media and intake of news: It is very tempting to spend your entire day consuming content on social media. Watch your friend’s story, see pretty pictures of your social media bloggers and browse through your feed to check up on your friends. It is also wise on our part to absorb all the information on what’s happening in and around the world. But what we don’t realise is that the former leads to us experiencing the feeling of being left out (what the millennials term ‘FOMO’) and comparison. Meanwhile, excessive consumption of news, on the other hand, tends to make you feel that everything is wrong in the world.

 –  Move your body: Work from home has urged us to spend an enormous amount of hours on our work desk. So much so that when we are deeply immersed into work, we ignore what’s happening around us. This doesn’t only affect our mental health but also our physical health. So, squeeze in a quick workout, even if it is only 20 minutes. While it is hard to drag yourself to workout, the sense of accomplishment, which you will experience after it, will make it all worth it.

–  Find your joy:  For some it is dance, for some it is painting, while for some it is cooking, don’t lose sight of what brings you joy amid turmoil. This distraction will only act as a fuel for you to feel better and never lose sight of what you truly are.

–  Reach out: When you feel the need to vent out, don’t be hesitant to reach out. Speak to people who you feel understand you and have your best interest in their heart. Instead of keeping all your feelings stored in a tight glass jar, say it out loud. If something is disturbing you, be upfront about it. It might feel uncomfortable at that particular moment but it will be cathartic. If you find yourself at a place where you feel some extra care, reach out to a professional. Break the stigma around mental health and don’t pay heed to ‘Log Kya Kahenge’.

–  Give your mind and body enough fuel: Nothing will work until your mind and body are not fully recharged. Make sure to get proper sleep. If you have difficulty sleeping, you can read a book, listen to calming music or even journal before heading to bed. Along with this, pay attention to dietary habits, eat healthy and ensure that you don’t sacrifice on getting enough nutrients because you don’t feel like it.

No matter what age you are, where you are in the world, make yourself your #1 priority and take care of your mental health.