Tips help maintain mental health during pandemic

Posted May 18, 2020

As the weeks pass here at home, I’ve been looking for new ways to occupy my time and maintain good mental health.

I consulted with a UW-River Falls faculty member, Ann Lawton, who is also a licensed art therapist. I asked her for some suggestions, and Lawton pointed out that this is no time to focus on productivity.

“I was someone who would be able to easily get up at 5:30 a.m. and be on campus by 7 a.m., and now, it’s a struggle for me to be functioning by 9 a.m.,” Lawton explained. “Why would I expect my students to be able to simply adjust to implied structure when the whole world is on pause?”

Lawton said that self-forgiveness is going to be critical to practice during this pandemic. “Avoiding unhappiness is not happiness, and during any day you will encounter frustration, humor, joy, anger, contentment, sadness, and a whole gamut of feelings and emotions—honor them and acknowledge them.”

According to a study by the UW System, half of college students rated their behavioral health below average or poor in 2018. In times of increased stress, such as this global pandemic, it may be a good idea for everyone to plan some relaxation activities.

My sister Paige is a nurse. She recommended trying small ways to keep your mind occupied during these stressful days and weeks.

“Whether you do puzzles, online Sudoku, talking to friends and family on the phone or starting a new hobby, the possibilities are endless,” according to Paige. She also recommended spending time in nature and listening to the birds.

I live in Minnesota, and it appears more recreational opportunities may be available soon based on recent state government announcements. In the meantime, Lawton suggested getting creative and making art out of anything around you. She recommended entering the process with an open mind.

“Draw with your feet, your non-dominant hand, with your eyes closed. Get weird. Make it for you and nobody else! Play. Give yourself permission,” Lawton said. “You’re the only one getting in your own way of doing, making, creating, exploring and trying.”