Updated: Jul 23
2020 has been one heck of a year. As someone who constantly craves new adventures, has an incurable travel bug, and who’s favorite hobby is hopping on flights to the next bucket list destination, 2020 has thrown me a real curveball in how I go about life. If you’re like me in Southern California, you know how much things continue to change on a daily basis. One day, restaurants and bars are re-opened. The next day, everything shuts back down. I feel like I am in a constant whirlwind of uncertainty, not knowing when or how things are going to change, but knowing that nothing is permanent.
It’s scary not knowing with certainty whether or not it’s safe to go eat at our favorite restaurants, grab a cup of coffee to-go from our routine coffee spots, or simply go for a walk on a Saturday at a crowded beach. I think the hardest part is having to use your own personal judgment as to what’s “safe” and what is not “safe.”
Of course, as I am sure most travel-lovers do, I miss traveling a lot. I miss not being able to hug my grandma or my friends. I miss not having to think twice about going to the grocery store, or a park, or anywhere outside of the house. I miss being within 6-feet of my loved ones. I miss it all. But in all honesty, I also recognize that these times of uncertainty have challenged me mentally in ways that I have never before been challenged. Some days, I feel very optimistic, energized, and level-headed. I am able to realize that COVID-19 will not last for an eternity and that we will likely have a vaccine within the next couple of years. Other days, I feel very pessimistic, fatigued, and unenthusiastic about what lies ahead. On those days, it feels like COVID-19 has taken over our world - with no end in sight.
The longer these days of quarantining go on, the more I realize just how important it is to focus on the present moment, maintain a balanced self care routine, and try my best to keep things in perspective. I have experimented with various self care activities throughout these past few months and below is the list of my top 10 best self care tips to boost mental health. These 10 things definitely help me take care of myself both mentally and physically and I hope that they inspire you to take a closer look at your self care routine during this quarantine.
Before quarantine began, I was not a runner, and nor was anyone in my family. I never particularly liked running because I always felt slow and out of breath. Back in March, my sister had the random idea to start training for a 5K, because why not! My mom and I decided we wanted to join in on the training, so we all began the Couch to 5K Run Training App.
We stayed super consistent and used the app’s training program to run 3 times per week. At first, we were only running 1 to 3-minute intervals, but before we knew it, we were running 1 mile, then 2 miles, and finally, a full 5K!
The app motivated us to stay on track, hold us accountable, and keep us focused on our goal of running a 5K. Nowadays, I run 2 to 3 times per week and feel stronger than ever. I’m Team Fitbit (sorry, Apple Watch!) and currently use the Fitbit Inspire HR to track my mileage and heart rate during my runs. The endorphins I feel after a morning run are truly unbeatable and it helps me set a positive tone for my day ahead. I highly recommend this app to anyone looking to kick up their fitness routine!
Meditation has always been one of my best tools for improving my mental health. If you’re new to meditation, it can definitely be challenging at first, but once it is a part of your self care routine, you’ll never look back. When meditating, I recommend 1. Finding a quiet spot where interruptions are minimized, 2. Getting into a position that’s comfortable for you, and 3. Closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for the entirety of the meditation. You can also light a scented candle or light some calming incense. I also love using these essential oils on my temples, wrists, and under my nose during meditation to help me sink into a more relaxed state. I would also recommend keeping a pen and journal nearby in case your meditation brings up any pressing thoughts you’d like to explore. I typically do guided meditations from YouTube. Here’s my free playlist of my top favorite guided meditations to help you get started! Check it out here: https://rb.gy/4ufc8u.
3. Read a book
It’s time to dust off that old book that’s been sitting on your shelf for months and crack it open! I have always loved the idea of curling up in a cozy spot, sipping some tea, and reading a good book. Before quarantine started, I felt like I never had time to do this, despite having several books sitting on my shelf waiting to be read! I personally have a hard time focusing while reading, so I like to also use my reading time as screen-free time. I’ll set my phone somewhere out of sight and turn it on silent so I can really dial into the book. Here are a few of my favorite quarantine books thus far:
Next on my list: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
4. Plan something to look forward to
Traveling is truly my passion, and even though I do not plan on traveling internationally any time soon, I still always love having something on my calendar to look forward to. This could be a small road trip, a socially-distanced activity with my friends, or even something as simple as a coffee date with an old friend. Having something on the horizon, regardless of how big or how small, helps me maintain a more positive mindset. I recently took a weekend trip to Santa Barbara, a 4th of July weekend trip to Lake Arrowhead with my friends, a Duffy boat out with my family for my mom’s birthday, and also have an upcoming road trip to Lake Tahoe with my sister. I’ve also enjoyed doing sushi sunset dates at the beach with my friends, or even FaceTime dates. I definitely recommend keeping little activities on your calendar to help boost your mental health :).
Journaling is another one of my go-to’s for improving my mental health. I’ve kept a journal since kindergarten and intend on journaling for the rest of my life. I’ll often combine journaling with meditating and find it incredibly helpful to journal when I am feeling stressed, anxious, or just feeling down overall. I think it really helps me to get my thoughts down on paper, see these thoughts, and then process them and reflect on them. I always feel a sense of ease and relaxation and think of journaling as a therapeutic activity. I am currently using Fringe Studio’s journal.
I like having a minimalistic, paperback, lined journal, and this one checks off all those things - plus it’s super cute! I love journaling because you can do it any time, anywhere, and with minimal equipment. If you are unsure what to write about or want to try a new style of journaling, I would recommend trying a guided journal with writing prompts. Journaling is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your mental health and I definitely notice a difference in my mental state post-journaling.
6. Try something new
Something I really enjoy doing is trying new things, especially during the summertime. I recently tried both kayaking and paddleboarding, two things that I’ve only done a couple of times previously. It was SO nice getting out on the water, breathing in the fresh ocean air, and also getting quite a great upper body workout in as well. Now is the perfect time to try new activities that have been in the back of your mind, or even pursue old hobbies that you may have lost touch with. Some examples include painting, surfing, hiking, calligraphy, baking, and so many more depending on where you are located and what your interests are! Find something that works for you and give it a try!
This is another activity that you can do almost anywhere, at any time, with very minimal to no equipment. When I find myself overthinking things or stuck in a negative thought pattern, I love using yoga as a technique to help get out of my head and focus on my body and breath. Practicing yoga feels like stress and tension melting away and is definitely one of my top positive mental health tools. Whether you have practiced yoga previously or are brand new to it, I recommend checking out Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube. She is so down to earth, witty, and relatable. I’ve completed countless yoga sessions using her videos and love how much she can help bring me into a calm, positive state of mind through yoga.
8. Reach out to old friends
Since graduating from college and moving away from my college town, it’s been harder to keep in touch with old friends. Now that most of my friends are dispersed all over the country and working full-time, it can be tough to keep each other in the loop. During this quarantine, I have made an effort to reach out to old friends that I truly miss. It has been incredibly rewarding and feels so good to reconnect with some of my best friends that I do not typically get the chance to talk to on a regular basis. I love setting up virtual FaceTime or Zoom happy hours with my friends both near and far and am so happy to be back in touch with some of my dearest friends. I even did a couple of virtual cookie baking sessions with my friends, which was a super fun, quarantine-friendly activity.
9. Take a mindful walk
This sounds obvious, but to me, taking a long, mindfulness-focused walk is far different than taking a walk for exercise purposes. If you find yourself in a negative mental state, I recommend taking a mindful walk. Here are some helpful tips I use during my walks:
A. Put your phone away. Either leave your phone behind or turn it on silent for the duration of your walk. This will help you stay more present and focus more on your walk and the surrounding environment versus being sucked into your Instagram feed.
B. Listen to mellow music or no music. This comes down to personal preference and I tend to change this up based on how I’m feeling. I like to listen to Spotify’s Vinyasa Flow playlist to ease myself into a meditative, mindful state of mind, or simply listen to the sounds in the environment during my walk.
C. Take your walk during golden hour. Golden hour, the hour right before sunset, is my favorite time to take a mindful walk. The sun is low in the sky, the summer heat has dissipated, and there’s usually a cool breeze.
10. Start a passion project
Something I have always wanted to do is start a travel blog, and it only took a global pandemic to push me into doing it! But seriously, it has been a goal of mine for years now, but I never knew exactly when or if it would happen. COVID-19 has caused an endless number of negative effects on our world as we know it, but I truly believe it has caused numerous positive effects, too. For me, this quarantine really pushed me to focus on what truly makes me happiest in life and what matters most. Traveling, writing, and photography are three of my life-long passions and I am absolutely thrilled to finally be pursuing my dream of combining those three things into a blog. Challenge yourself to think long and hard about what things make you feel most alive in life, and just go for it. Now is the time to stop psyching yourself out, listening to any negative thoughts or inner self-doubt, and just say “yes” to pursuing your passions and dreams.
The bottom line: prioritize your self care, mental health, and overall well-being during these challenging times. Whether this means doing something active like the Couch to 5K App, doing something creative like starting a passion project, or doing something as simple as taking a mindful walk in your neighborhood, do what feels best for you and what you feel has the most positive impact on your mental health. I hope you find these 10 best self care habits just as helpful and beneficial as I do. Let me know your favorite one in the comments, or any recommendations of self care activities you currently have in your routine!
*Disclosure: Please note that this post contains some affiliate links. These are products I use myself and genuinely recommend. I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you from any purchases made through the links.*