by Carolin Spitzer I 6 minutes read time
The past year was a really a difficult one: The Corona Pandemic turned our lives upside down and made us experience quiet unique conditions that were probably new to most of us. The time was and is still largely characterized by limited freedom, a drastically reduced social life and lots of uncertainty about what’s coming. Besides the constant risk of being exposed to the virus and financial worries for many, our mental health has been at risk as well.
Mental health belongs to our overall health and is not defined by the pure absence of mental disorders. Instead, it includes other aspects like state of well-being, the commitment to tasks, realizing one’s abilities and being able to cope with the everyday stress factors.
Covid-19 has impeded our tasks of reaching a healthy, psychological state. We have not been able to socialize, follow our routines, plan ahead or make our decisions the way we have in the past. With everything being different and almost our entire life taking place at home right now, what can we do to improve our mental health and not become unhappy?
Let us look at some of the factors together.
External factors: acceptance and awareness
Unfortunately, we are not in control over the course of this crisis, besides staying at home and following the rules. It causes pain to think of all the good things we are missing out on right now, events and experiences that should be taking place at the moment. But sadly, we cannot change anything and get our „old 2019 conditions“ back.
That leaves us with the choice of either letting the situation pull us down or try to make the best of it. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade out of it.
Wayne Dyer, a former US psychologist once said „The only difference between a flower and a weed is judgment“, meaning: a situation is only as bad as we think it is. That means that certain circumstances aren’t necessarily negative but the way we see them, especially when something is new to us.
Being aware of that and displaying acceptance is an essential first step. The „reality“ we perceive is subjective and we can try to change it and guide our thinking so that we are not helplessly exposed to our emotions anymore.
How we perceive our surrounding guides our reality. Try to look for the positive sides in things – but stay honest with yourself and accept that some things are just the way they are.
Internal factors: guiding our thoughts
Before trying towards being more positive, you should accept not only the external influences but also what is going on inside of you. It is absolutely ok to struggle, especially during this time, and you are definitely not alone in it. Instead of „being mad at yourself“ (try not perform psychological punishment) for being „weak“ or feeling like a „failure“, just know that you are doing great!
Last year has been exceptional so there is no reason to hide or suppress your emotions. Try to tell yourself „It’ll all be ok! Don’t you worry! You have got this!“, just like you would tell a good friend who is not feeling well at the moment.
Eat that chocolate bar, stay in bed all day and do not feel bad about it! Just like you would when you have the flu. Also, talk about your thoughts and emotions, it always helps. If there is nobody you want to open-up to, there are professionals willing to help you as well, just like you go to a doctor when you have physical pain. You do not need to be mentally ill to see a therapist, having a series of rough days or weeks is reason enough (for more information see at the end of this article).
After coming to terms with your situation, you should then try to be more optimistic. It’s always easier said than done obviously and while being in a mental crisis the last thing you want to hear is „Just think positive!“ But once you actually try it, it will help you feel better. You can practice optimism by thinking of things that you appreciate.
For example, before going to bed, write down three circumstances, people or opportunities you are grateful for or three things that went well that day. Also, you can make a list of benefits that happened due to the corona crisis. If you enjoy cooking, spend more time at it and try new things. If you like playing the guitar, practice it more often. You are sleeping for longer hours in the morning? Great, continue doing so as these are things that could help keep your mind engaged and not drain you emotionally.
Awareness for your own thoughts and feelings makes you see things clearer. Talking to someone about your emotions can go a long way to a more positive mindset.
There is also no shame in seeking professional help. Mental health is for everyone!
Developing new habits
Besides dealing with what we think, the what-we-do-part is just as important and can create favourable conditions for an improved mental state. Having a healthy mind alongside a healthy body takes effort and will eventually affect all parts of your life in a positive way. Take care of yourself, because who else are you going to be spending as much time with in the future? The term self-care does not only include facial masks and nail polish, it is a way of spending the time that you have with a focus on your well-being.
Relaxation procedures – like meditation and yoga – help you calm down from all the craziness in life and also reduce your stress and anxiety level while improving your self-perception, concentration, sleep and physical pain (for more information, see at the end). Be kind to your body, eat healthy and stay active. If you can’t motivate yourself to workout, that’s not a problem at all, try going for a walk instead, the fresh air will make you feel much better. Listen to your favourite music or podcast or just enjoy the silence and your surroundings.
A healthy and regular sleeping pattern is another essential factor and actually easier to follow – thanks to the current crisis. Try to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day. Do not use digital devices with bright screens around one hour before going to bed. Put your alarm at the other end of the room, as this will help you better fall asleep at night and get up in the morning. More advice for better sleep can be found online under the keyword „sleep hygiene“.
Despite being home all the time, it is important to maintain a routine and have certain daily tasks. There are different procedures that might help you manage your life at home. Do not get frustrated if the first thing you try does not work. If you find it difficult to get going in the morning, getting dressed and following your usual routine as if you left the house can help. Staying in pyjamas all day might keep you from getting in the work mode. Also, productivity during the day can be improved by writing to-do-lists and planning your day with a precise schedule allowing more structure and limiting procrastinated opportunities. Remember to take breaks and enjoy your „Feierabend“ by pursuing a creative hobby, reading, treating yourself with a nice meal or putting on the facial mask.
Last but not least, staying in touch with friends and family improves your perception of loneliness and self-isolation. Arrange an online games night with friends (scribbl, cards against humanity, codenames, „Stadt Land Fluss“ are just some of the games offered online) or do a group video call your parents or cousins. If are fortunate enough to have your parents nearby, pay a visit to them and spend some quality time with them. They need this as much as you do. You are not as alone as you think you are and your support network is out there, just one call away. Luckily, Corona has happened in 2020, because not too long ago, keeping in touch would not have been possible like it is today.
Some ideas for new personal avenues
- Try meditation or Yoga
- Sleep regularly and heathy
- Maintain a routine
- Make a to-do-list
- Stay in touch with friends and family
- Limit time you spend in front of digital devices
Additional advice for young talents, students and graduates
Until now, the advice was for pretty much for everyone, so let’s have a look at things talents specifically can do. You probably aren’t fixated on your career yet so this time is perfect to find out about what your future might look like.
You are not sure yet about your career plans and options? You are not where you want to be and would like to develop your skills or learn more about a certain field? Corona is indirectly raising its forefinger and telling you „You are grounded! Go to your room and figure out your future!“ Obviously, gaining practical experience is not too easy right now, but luckily, there are millions of options to acquire knowledge: webinars (check out intap’s events), tutorials, YouTube videos, blogs, ted talks, documentaries, podcasts, … Don’t let the flood of information intimidate you, but try to make use of it in the best way possible.
If you are trying to find a job, intap is here to support you as well. It doesn’t only have a job platform and offers magic matching, but also gives advice on the application process and organizes various networking and career focused events.
When moving to a new place with new people around speaking a new language, it might be especially hard during corona to network and improve your language skills. An app that facilitates both, getting to know people and practise speaking, is „Tandem“, where you can put in your location and your language skills and goals. You can then have a conversation with people from not only around the world but also locals and therefore „schlägst du zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe“, as we would say in German.
Stay healthy – in every way – and do not hesitate to ask for help!
The best time to foster your personal development and professional career is now!
If you want to get started, intap offers professional career coaching that gives you the headstart that you need.
Or come to one of our online events, where you can get valuable insights into networking and application topics- most of them are for free and developed with our partnered to give real advice from real companies.
Add-on professional help:
Telefonseelsorge (telephone counseling)
+49 (0) 800 1110111
Dresdner Nightline (from students for students, but mostly in German)
+49 (0) 4277345
(during the semester Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 21:00 – 00:00)
Psychosoziale Beratungsstelle Studentenwerk Dresden
Write at email@example.com for making an appointment (via telephone)
If you are a total beginner, apps are a great way of learning how to meditate. Unfortunately most of the professional ones are not free. But it’s a great way of spending money! Try different trial subscriptions (Headspace or Calm, for example) and see what works best for you or check out student discounts.