Here are some useful mental health coping tips I’ve adopted to get me through the pandemic.
I’m writing this at 3.30am with my dog on my lap, unable to sleep because of stress (the irony!). I feel like sharing my personal mental health journey over the pandemic’s past 12 to 15 months might offer help for others going through the same. But please know I don’t have all the answers. I’m still grappling with stress and my own mental wellbeing that has taken a toll from lockdowns and the Covid-19 impact on my business. (For those of you who may not know, I’m the founder & CEO of Honeycombers, ‘chief buck-stops-at-me person’.)
When you run a lifestyle business that’s pretty much dependent on people being able to explore their city, you expect to be hit pretty badly when the government locks down the nation. But nothing really prepared me for the sharp decline in revenue – and the impact that would have on our business. This second wave of restrictions feels almost as painful. But there’s one big difference this time around, and that’s the personal growth I’ve experienced (or rather, forced to experience) in the last 15 months.
The pandemic has changed me and my business for the better. I’ve evolved as a human, and my business has also evolved. We’re growing and testing new things, pivoting in business and life, and learning a lot about resilience and coping strategies. So I thought a summary of all the things I’ve tried and the way they’ve helped me might be useful for anyone feeling the depths of stress and despair – and the burden of being locked away from family, friends and loved ones.
7 mental health tips I’ve learnt from the pandemic
1. Trust the universe
I’ve always been a little bit ‘woo-woo’ (for lack of a better word), but the last 15 months really made me feel I need to let go and trust in the universe. To trust that whatever happens is meant to be, to have faith and to know that deep down I have everything I need to get me and my company through whatever is thrown our way. Because if you don’t have faith, what do you have?
I’m surrounded by great people (friends, family, team members and clients) who all know I’ve got this. And together with strong faith, we’ll get through this. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more connected with this inner circle of people that I can be honest with – and that’s a pretty amazing feeling. So thank you, pandemic.
2. Meditation helps
A practical and easy tip? Dive into mediation. I did a 3-day meditation course in October last year, ‘cause the universe sent me a meditation teacher – an old uni buddy who decided I needed to learn. Honestly, I’m surprised by the impact it’s had on my state of mind. I always thought I wouldn’t find the time or see the impact of meditation on my mental health. But it’s been so good. Now I’m even dipping into breathwork, which is really upleveling my meditation practice!
I don’t meditate every day (more like 4 to 5 days a week), but after each session I feel lighter and calmer. Like I have more ‘fuel in the tank’ when it comes to coping with stress and life in general. I’ve also realised I’m much more calm and cool-headed around my three kids. So if you’ve always wanted to learn but you’ve been putting it off, now is a perfect time.
3. Try manifesting and journaling
Three years ago, I would’ve written this off as being too ‘woo-woo’. But after reading Make it Happen by Jordanna Levin, a beginner’s guide to manifesting, I’m in love with the practice. Manifesting helps you tap into your subconscious. It also allows you to put out your dream life to the universe. I honestly believe that dreaming and setting goals is the first step to get where you want to go.
Recently, I was sent a Smile More, Stress Less journal from The Kind Friend (again, the universe looking after me). It’s been an absolute joy in helping me connect with my inner demons and spirits. Writing is seriously therapeutic! When I’m feeling really down, it can get me out of that ‘blue zone’. I write things I’m grateful for, or things that I want to happen, or I jot down my feelings. And somehow releasing it all on the page takes it out of my head (that might be one of the reasons I’m penning this article at 4am!).
4. Lean on community
Whether it’s Zoom calls to play cards with mates, a chat over the phone or a walk with a friend, I’ve leaned on my family, friends, teammates and clients so much over the past year. That’s brought us all closer together, even though some are thousands of kilometres apart.
It’s strange that a pandemic can have this impact. But even with my old university buddies (we now have a very active WhatsApp chat group), I can feel the love now more than ever. Having a richer connection with these wonderful humans helps me feel that this pandemic isn’t all bad.
5. Exercise, exercise, exercise!
I’ll confess, I did not believe in exercise before the pandemic. I thought that I’d just missed out on the ‘endorphin exercise gene’. I don’t like to sweat, I don’t like running, I don’t really have time for team sports – so I’d kinda just written it all off. But, after a friend gave me a steer to try reformer pilates, I’ve been hooked. That was a game changer! (It’s exercise ‘lying down’, a perfect lazy girl workout regime.)
Now, I do a strong pilates class twice a week and walk around feeling all the lactic acid in my muscles for days afterwards (looking very chuffed with myself!). But this is one thing that’s helped me sleep – like, really sleep. I’d totally recommend exercise for better mental health. It really clears the mind for a good 40 minutes. There’s no way I can think about all the stressful things on my plate when I’m just trying to survive a series of ab crunches. I also discovered the ‘endorphin rush’ gene (finally!). Seems like I had it after all, and it feels so good.
6. Take a shot at plant medicine
I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve been dabbling in plant medicine – specifically CBD oil, Kambo and mushrooms – and enjoying the impact. I know this isn’t useful for anyone in Singapore, but psychedelics are a known medicine for depression, anxiety and addiction. Slowly, the world is becoming more accepting of plant medicine as an alternative therapy. Just look at cannabis in the US. In Hong Kong and Australia (where I live), CBD oils are now used for depression. We’re even seeing CBD oils for pets! So if you get the chance to explore plant medicine, you may find it helps you feel lighter, more positive, more accepting and more trusting in the universe.
7. Spend time with animals
This might sound simple, but there’s nothing more calming (and divine) than having a cuddle with a fluffy, cute pup that has loving eyes and 100% devotion to you. Recently, my son was asked in a school assignment what he’d do if he were scared (it was a ‘stranger danger’ exercise). His first reaction was to write ‘hug a dog’, and I totally know why.
If you don’t have a pet, I’d suggest getting one. And if you can’t find a dog, cat or loving creature to co-live with, just reach out to a friend or neighbour and ask if you can co-parent or pet-sit for them. Not only will you be getting calming doggie vibes in your life, but you’ll also be building and strengthening your own community.
Want to know more about meditation, breathwork, manifesting, journaling or plant medicine? DM me on Instagram @honeycombers and let’s chat.