These have been tough times. I don’t have to make a case for this statement. We are all feeling it and we are exhausted. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the hard times are going away anytime soon, so we have to find a new way of coping.

With so much gloom and distress in our world, it can be difficult to feel grateful. Practicing gratitude does not come easy at first but when you hone your practice of gratitude your mind starts focusing in on the things you are grateful for while the gloom and distress fades to the background. I get that it might sound cheesy but don’t knock it until you try it.

Think of your favorite cozy sweater, a blue sky despite a freezing cold day, a meeting that ends 15 minutes early, or getting a call from an old friend. Carve time out of your day for gratitude practice, keep a journal, it is something you can look back on when you are having a bad day. If you don’t schedule it on your calendar it may never happen.  

One of the most rewarding ways to reframe difficult times is to shift focus from your own difficulties to the difficulties of others. Consider ways in which you can brighten someone else’s day or give to someone in need.

Sometimes we think we have to make grand gestures, but a simple handwritten note can mean the world to someone that needs a bit of uplifting. Tell someone how much you appreciate them. Pay for the order of the next person in line behind you. Drop a meal on the doorstep of someone that has been shut-in. Pick a local charity you can give your time or talent to.

The more you can get involved, rather than just making a financial donation, the greater the reward on your end. Research shows that giving to others boosts your physical and mental health.

Self-care. I’m like a broken record about good self-care to anyone that will listen, because it is so simple and yet so crucial to your emotional wellbeing. If you rely on social media to define self-care you probably think this means a glass of wine as big as your head, a pound of chocolate, lots of massages and fancy vacations. True self-care involves getting enough sleep, exercise, good nutrition and spending time in nature (yes, even when it is cold outside). Limit alcohol, caffeine and other substances that are not good for your body.

Self-care also means surrounding yourself with a healthy support system and making time to hang out with your supports, even if it needs to be virtual. Laughter is like medicine, so spend time with people and in activities that will make you laugh until your face hurts.  

These days we have unlimited access to news and social media and their revenue is driven by sensationalizing and catastrophizing. The greater the drama the greater the ratings.

Whatever you do, please limit your news intake. The human body was not designed to be in a constant state of high alert. This can cause long-term mental and physical health complications.

Set a timer and don’t allow yourself to take in more media content than that. Pick a few reliable sources and avoid sources that tend to be more negative. You know what topics cause you to tense up and have high anxiety. Don’t succumb to clickbait. Just don’t. 

- Dr. Siquilla Liebetrau, clinical director, Bowen Center