Keeping your head on tight: How to improve and maintain your mental health

If you’re struggling with your mental health, whether it’s due to a generalised sense of doom brought on by current events or a recent personal upheaval, you aren’t alone.

Before the pandemic struck, nearly one in five Americans grappled with some form of mental illness on a daily basis. After the pandemic, even those without preexisting conditions began to struggle with unprecedented levels of depression, anxiety, and lethargy. While scientists have only just begun to get a partial picture of the impact the pandemic era has had on our collective mental health, they have also recently discovered an entirely new condition: pandemic brain, a fog that impairs critical thinking ability brought about by neuroinflammation and volume loss in several crucial areas of our brains.


The road to recovery

It’s no question that the times of turmoil we find ourselves in are stressful for everybody. Yet, even though we are still in the midst of this disaster, we must try and find a way to mitigate the negative effects of being under so much stress.

While the effects described above are happening to thousands of Americans, scientists assure us that the damage done by pandemic-era conditions isn’t irreversible. We just need to have ways to mitigate our stress and means of reclaiming aspects of our pre-pandemic normal, as scientists suspect that the long, stressful period of lockdown was at least partially to blame for these conditions.

If you’ve been struggling with your mental health of late and you want to pick up some new healthy habits, read on: we’ll talk about healthy ways to cope with your stress and help you live a more fulfilling life during this time of global disaster.


Good, old-fashioned therapy

There’s really no substitute for it. Despite the stigma that’s still unfairly associated with therapy, therapy gives people dealing with all kinds of mental illnesses a safe space to talk about what’s going on with them, as well as practical tools to help them manage negative emotions in the moment.

The key is to find a therapist who deals with your specific malady and make sure that the therapist you’re speaking with is trustworthy. Therapist hunting can take quite a bit of time, requiring you to research professionals and take a look at their reviews. You might even start your search for a therapist online and if you have health insurance you will want to look for online therapy that takes insurance. When you find the right one, you will see significant gains in your mental health in both the short and long term.

Adopting a puppy

You might be surprised at how much adopting a four-legged friend can improve your mental health. Puppies have been known to have a variety of positive impacts on owners’ mental and physical health, including:

  • Helping them develop long-term exercise routines. If you’ve been cooped up in the house for most of the pandemic, and you’ve lost all will to go outside, getting a puppy can be a great way to force yourself to get some steps in. Puppies of all breeds require exercise outdoors, requiring you to maintain a regular exercise schedule for yourself and your puppy.
  • Combating The long-term social isolation brought on by the pandemic can be lifted (in part) with the constant presence of a puppy in the house. Having a companion with you who is genuinely glad to be in your presence at all times has been known to chase away such feelings.
  • Easing anxiety day-to-day. Did you know that even the simple act of petting a puppy can reduce your levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), easing your anxiety almost immediately? Yes, even being in the presence of your new best friend can have a lessening effect on the constant anxiety you carry with you each day, helping you live lighter amid anxiety-inducing times.

For optimal results, you’ll want to get a breed that is the right mixture of playful and friendly, a dog that will cuddle up next to you late at night and constantly beg you to play during the day. One such puppy is the Cavapoo, a small, energetic breed that comes with the added benefit of being hypoallergenic. If you’re missing the presence of a four-legged friend in your home, browse the puppies available from a reliable, no-puppy mill breeder.

Plan COVID-safe days out

Sometimes what you really need is a vacation. Being stuck in the same environment for months on end while not feeling safe to go out has been one of the primary reasons for the widespread decline in mental health we’ve seen.

If you feel like it’s safe, you should therefore try to find ways to get out every week or so at a minimum. Going to a local park and jogging with a mask on, going back to a hobby shop or something similar and picking interests you enjoy back up, or even going on a little vacation and planning COVID-safe events are all great ways to get yourself back out there gradually, reclaiming bits of your pre-pandemic normal.

However, make sure that if you go out into public, you are vaccinated and have the requisite PPE on your person. While being cooped up in your house isn’t great for your health, neither is Omicron, and keeping COVID safe is of paramount importance with these things.

We can finally reclaim aspects of our pre-pandemic normal, taking advantage of the leeway we have to live a lifestyle that’s healthier for our minds. Do what works for you, taking note of how each method listed above makes you feel: you will eventually find your way to a stronger mental standing.

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