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Ways to Guard Your Mental Health During Stressful Times

By Lisa Valentine

If you’ve been feeling stressed, anxious and perhaps a bit depressed since the COVID-19 pandemic brought daily life in the United States to a screeching halt, you’re not alone.

As someone who has battled low-grade depression for much of her life, I’ve learned that my mental health is something I need to be vigilant about, whether that’s ending a toxic Facebook “friendship” with a click of the block button or something as simple as drinking enough water and trying to eat foods that I know will help me feel better.

Try these to help mind your mental health:

Find a little inner peace

The Headspace app is offering a free year-long subscription to Headspace Plus for those currently unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The subscription includes access to the full Headspace library, including guided meditations and courses on everything from stress to relationships. You’ll also have access to a collection of relaxing sleepcasts, music, sounds and more to help set the mood for meditation.

By meditating just five minutes a day, you can decrease symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, improve your worldview and increase feelings of compassion and connection, and help improve your learning and memory. Sign up at


Develop some soothing rituals

I remember reading an article in The Cut where Amy Sedaris talks about her ritual to “prepare for evening”:  At 5 p.m., she puts her shades down, puts on a nightlight for her pet rabbit, Tina, and gets her scented candles out.

I’ve adopted a similar routine: When the sun starts going down between 6:30 and 7 p.m., I like to turn on all my novelty lights, like my IKEA owl lamp, so my space has a soft glow. I’ll light some candles or burn some incense and just chill while reading a book or playing a game on my tablet.

I love the idea of creating these simple little rituals for yourself as part of self-care. Do you have a particular evening where you pamper yourself with a face mask or indulge in some extra grooming steps you usually don’t have time for? (For me, it’s Friday evening).

There’s no better time than when you’re staying at home to help flatten the curve to develop some new self-care routines.

Lisa’s lamps set the mood for mental health.

Cook and create

I’m not much of a cook, but I have been spending more time in the kitchen, not just out of necessity but also because I’ve found that finding an interesting recipe online and trying to recreate it can be quite therapeutic — provided it doesn’t have more than 5 steps or 10 ingredients.

Creativity is good for the soul (and your mental health), so whether you’re experimenting with a new frittata-making technique or trying your hand at watercolor or acrylic painting, remember that the reward is in the activity itself rather than the quality of the final product.

Clay earrings have become a huge trend on Instagram, and my sister (who, disclaimer, is a trained artist) has been dabbling in making her own clay jewelry during quarantine. She wasn’t happy with her first attempt, but the pleasure that scrolling for Insta-ration, researching supplies and actually getting her hands dirty brought her was worth it alone.

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