Coming out of the pandemic has been difficult, and it seems that the world has changed in some ways in which we won’t easily roll back. The masks may be off in most places, but our “new normal” seems to have left us less connected, more reliant on digital means of communication, and many of us have found that the shake up of the last three years has affected our quality of life and our resultant mental health for the worse. While there have been several positive changes in some of our lives—more focus on representation, possibly reduced commute, and for those of us in cities, a renewed interest in reclaiming public space from cars—there is also a pall of lingering disconnection that many of us feel deeply in our day-to-day lives.
A lot of people have gotten used to isolation, and the habit continues on long after the pandemic has receded. I know from personal experience that working entirely remote is both a blessing and a curse: it’s lovely to avoid the morning rush, but the feeling of “being out amongst the world” is just not the same as before the pandemic. Other factors that were already on the march before 2020 have also accelerated. Life seems to happen increasingly online for me and many people I know, so prioritizing interaction outside the home and outside our immediate social circles is more important than ever. It may take more work than before, but there are many effective tools to improve both our connection to others and our own mental health right now. Here are some tips that have worked for us.
Maintain Your Wellness Routine, No Matter How Difficult
For many of us, diet and exercise is the first thing we allow to fall by the wayside when we are feeling down, which can only make things worse. We here at Cacao Lab are very serious about our morning rituals, which include meditation, exercise, and our daily cacao. We are aware that not everyone can front-load their day like this, so start with maintaining the same wakeup time every day and give yourself at least 10-15 mins with no stimulation so you can start your day off mentally prepared. I, personally, have found that even a quick meditation right after wakeup followed by either just a bit of stretching or even a full yoga session before even thinking about checking emails, looking at a screen, or beginning the daily tasks has helped immensely with clearing my mind. From there, my morning cacao ritual is maintained in silence while taking time to arrange my day in my mind.
Keep a Journal
While I personally like to do a quick journal session to unpack any dreams I had during the night, others have found a daily gratitude journal sets them into the right state of mind for a positive, productive day. In any fashion you choose, clearing your mind out onto a page can really give life to your hopes and aspirations, allow you to impact and discard anxiety or traumatic things that may have recurred in your dreams, and allow you that mental and emotional blank slate that breaks the cycle of carrying the same thought patterns over from day to day.
I also like to make a checklist of tasks and goals for the day. Those check marks and cross-offs can make your daily successes very apparent by day’s end—always a welcome point of pride when you may not feel 100% in many other ways.
Prioritize Your Community
Everyone is busy and it seems like work/life balance is only getting worse. However, it takes genuine effort to connect in the post-Covid world, so always carve as much time for others as you have energy for. If you’ve found some relationships fell away or maybe relocated during the last few years, take a moment to reach back out to those special people who activated your spirit or allow yourself to build new connections that are meaningful and feel in alignment to where you are now. Perhaps finding a community who are in alignment with what resonates with you now can also be supportive. . There is a loneliness epidemic and we have to be proactive in our fight against it. Some people join clubs for their interests, get deep into their student communities if they’re studying, or get active in the parent community if they have kids. I like to seek out groups and clubs of people who are into things that I have never tried before or that resonate with what I’ve been anting to explore deeper; I find this to be the most satisfying way to get a refreshing new perspective on what’s out there and to meet the types of souls I may have never crossed paths with in my day-to-day life.
Be of Service
Truly nothing can make you appreciate the human experience like being of service to your community and/or those in need. Mental health struggles can oftentimes come from a sense of dissatisfaction with oneself, and I’ve personally found nothing better to remind me that I have power to do good in the world than by volunteering. Every community, large and small, has opportunities to be of service, and if you’re in a populated area, there has never been a better time to get out there and lend a helping hand. As I see daily, the pandemic pushed a great many marginalized people beyond the brink, and we can all be active and generous with our abilities to help them get back on their feet. Sacred reciprocity can happen in many ways. While we may have many struggles in our lives, we don’t need to look far to see how privileged most of us truly are. Reaching your hand to those who don’t have the same luck can be a truly powerful human experience.
Limit Social Media
While these online spaces can be a place for connection in and of themselves, they can also lead to dependency and poor self-worth from witnessing the highlight reel of others’ lives. This isn’t news to anyone, but it is incredibly difficult for many of us to break the spell. Start by being conscious of the compulsion to reach for your phone and replace that split-second urge with something else: a walk around the block usually works for me. Next, block some time to scroll/catch up, but be strict about its start and end time. This way you won’t feel deprived, but you will slowly retrain your brain to compartmentalize that time and expect that stimulus in only that time. Just like curtailing any other addictive habit, it’s not easy, but it can be very worth it.
Embrace Your Community in Cacao
As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, we’d like to extend free access for the first week of summer to anyone in our community who feels they could use a forum to speak their mind and their heart. This space is any and every type if sharing—the only goal is that we find a safe space to speak and listen without judgment, and be there for each other. So grab a cup of Cacao, and let’s reconnect!