Prioritizing Mental Health Post-Pandemic

By Karie Meltzer, Doctoral Candidate, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, Division of Psychology

The painful toll of the pandemic is undeniable. Lives were lost, frontline workers were stretched beyond their capacity, plans were canceled, and the global prevalence of anxiety and depression rose a massive 25%. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is not fully behind us, the recent variants have become more manageable with vaccinations and treatments, and our community is largely back to business as usual. Kids are back in the classroom, restaurants are full, and families are getting together. After more than two years of isolation, confusion, and loss, this return to a sense of normalcy can feel like sweet relief.

However, it’s hard to remember that during the pandemic, many of us took time at home to prioritize our values and adopt healthier habits, such as cooking meals, trying new hobbies, and creating time for self-care. As we return to the hectic routines of commuting and social engagements, it is easy to forget some of the positive gains you may have made during the pandemic.

Here are five ways to continue attending to your mental health care as you continue to adjust to a new normal.

  • Mind your Multitasking: It is so easy to come home from a long day and sit mindlessly in front of the TV while scrolling on our phones. But paying marginal attention to two or three things is often less relaxing than fully engaging in one task at a time. Psychologists have also found multitasking reduces efficiency. If you are having trouble focusing on one task at work or home, try using the Pomodoro Technique to boost concentration.
  • Consider Saying No: The years of canceled plans and missed opportunities could leave you desperate for a full social calendar. However, packing your schedule could lead to social burnout. Before you say yes to a gathering, take the time to examine your week and month to ensure there is also time set aside for rest.
  • Keep Moving: When the gyms and studios closed, many of us rediscovered local parks and neighborhood strolls. Others embraced home fitness routines. Regardless of your work, school, or life schedule, making time to remain physically active and engaged is essential for mental health. In fact, exercise is a research-supported treatment for mild to moderate depression.
  • Seek Out or Keep up with Mental Health Care: Although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the delivery of in-office mental health care, more people actually met with mental health providers in the U.S. during the pandemic than ever before, thanks to the rapid availability of telehealth. While symptoms of depression and anxiety may improve for some as the world reopens, keeping up with booster therapy sessions may help with the adjustment to post-quarantine life. The Fort Worth Area Psychological Association is a great resource to find local psychologists if you are seeking treatment.
  • Continue to Prioritize Your Values: Did you start a weekly family game night or become a plant parent? Take a few minutes to jot down the personal values that are important to you now. Note whether you are still creating time for these values. If not, look for small, feasible ways to include them in your post-pandemic lifestyle.
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