This year has changed us. The COVID-19 pandemic had already taken a toll on our mental health, and the uprising for justice has gripped the world in a swirl of anger, fear, and hope. All these events have spiked our stress and anxiety levels and negatively impacted our sleep. This time has shown that as we move into our new world, taking small steps to prioritize our well-being is more important than ever.

We asked our Thrive community to share the small ways they’ve been taking care of their mental health and well-being — and how they’ll continue to do so moving forward. Which of these will you try?

Learn something new

“All of the fires we’re experiencing right now in our hearts have been showing me things I wish to change about myself — things that need healing — and pieces of myself that require my attention. I have been learning. I’m grateful for How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, which I am listening to on Audible, so I feel like I have class with Ibram on a daily basis. During this time of intense growth, I am trying to stay conscious, so that I am neither burning my internal house down nor avoiding the brilliant, beautiful fires of transformation.”

—Bridget Fonger, author and podcaster, Los Angeles, CA

List three things you’re grateful for

“Gratitude is my go-to helper for my mental health and well-being right now. I start and end my day with writing three things I’m grateful for in my journal, and I also turn to it when I notice I’m feeling upset about something or can’t sleep. I tell myself to stop the negative swirling and think of three more things I’m grateful for. Aside from my husband and kids, I am grateful for the tough conversations we’re having right now. I’m grateful for the angst I’m feeling at not knowing what to say or how to support my friends because I know my old thoughts are being challenged and I’m growing. I’m grateful for the stronger nation I know we will have in the future for going through this tumultuous time together.”

—Tara Bethell, founder and CEO, Arizona

Try a meditation app

“Every morning, I do a five-minute meditation through a guided app on my phone. I used to tell myself that I didn’t have time for a morning routine, but I noticed that on the days I went directly into work mode, I had less patience and felt easily overwhelmed. Recently, I’ve been focusing mostly on the loving kindness meditations and body scan meditations. It’s helping me let go of the ignorance and injustice in the world, and I’m more aware of where I’m holding it in my body.”

—Lisa Pezik, business strategist, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

Repeat a morning mantra

“One of the most effective resources to start the day with positivity is morning affirmations and mantras. As part of my daily practice, I have found that affirmations set the tone for the day, assist with daily goal-setting, and create enthusiasm to move forward by starting the day on a positive note and taking things one day at a time.”

—Trish Tonaj, master coach, author, and speaker, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 

Tap into your support system

“It is easy to focus on what is going awry, but I try to remember my blessings. I remind myself that my loved ones are healthy, that I have a home and enough to eat, and that I have a network of friends on whom I can lean and who care about me. All this helps tremendously to ease my anxiety and stress during these tumultuous times.”

— Jennefer Witter, CEO, speaker, and author, New York, NY

Take a reflective walk

“I get up an hour early and go for a walk before I start my workday. I do a 10-minute meditation upon waking, listen to podcasts that share hope, and try to remember to take five deep breaths when I stop. I am also reading books that remind me to be aware, and I look for silver linings. I see them everywhere — in families bike riding together, eating dinner together, and being together. We have to remember that we are enough, and if we put one foot in front of the other, we will find our way.”

—Siobhan Kukolic, author, speaker, and life coach, Toronto, Canada

Go for a swim

“I happen to be blessed to be staying in a home that has a pool. Since the quarantine started, even though the weather was cold, I made myself get into the unheated pool at least once a day. If I found my spirits dipping for any reason, my self-instruction was to stop and dip myself, from head to toe, into that pool even if just for a second. It cools my heart and soul by simply entering the pool.”

—Bridget Fonger, author and podcaster, Los Angeles, CA

Make time for movement 

The most transformational Microstep that I’ve embraced has been enabling my Apple Watch’s activity tracker. My watch helps me be more consistently active by creating awareness about how active or inactive I am on a daily basis. The activity tracker pushes me to achieve daily fitness goals, even on days I don’t feel like it, which has led to tremendous physical growth. Thanks to my watch, as well as my Peloton, I have added cycling, running, and strength training to my regular workout routine, which has put me in much better shape than I was before the pandemic. A healthier body leads to an even healthier mind, and pushing myself physically has transformed my mind. Vigorous physical exercise has helped me identify and challenge limiting beliefs and patterns that were holding me back in other areas of my life. Almost as soon as my heart rate goes up, my brain is flooded with ideas, which has made me more creative professionally and has provided extensive inspiration for journal entries.”

—Jamie Sewell, technology strategist, Tampa, FL

List positive affirmations

“This is one of the most stressful times in our collective human history, and it’s very easy to feel frustrated or lonely. One may also feel low, worried, and anxious. I find that the mind controls our thoughts, which then overflow into our actions. One effective way to train my mind, and make it go in the direction I want, is through positive affirmations. I try to start each day by affirming peaceful, contented, successful, and happy attitudes. When I do this, my day turns out differently. I make an effort to empty my mind of worry and anxiety, and then try to fill it with creative, healthy and positive thoughts through affirmations.”

—Pedro Okoro, pastor, blogger, and attorney, London, U.K.

Use water to reflect

“Water always seems to have a revitalizing effect. On sunny days when I’m about to get in the shower, I stop for a minute or two to let the water run. Through the window, the sunlight catches the droplets creating a rainbow where the water pools before it drains out, and I think of Snyder’s theory of hope as a ‘rainbow of the mind.’ I reflect on what is keeping me hopeful. I think of the strength and resilience of people of color. I look at my brown skin and the lifetime of scars and stretch marks. The pulse of the water helps me shift my focus from what’s inevitable to what’s possible.”

—Nandini Maharaj, research grants facilitator, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Embrace the concept of Ikigai

“The only way I am able to keep my mental well-being and physical health in control, especially right now, is by keeping my Ikigai alive and kicking. Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy surrounding finding purpose in life, and having a reason to wake up each morning. In spite of being terribly distressed and apprehensive at the moment, I make it a point to have a schedule of work lined up for the next day, and go on a consistent morning walk every morning. Having a schedule gives me a sense of purpose. Learn from the Japanese: the discipline, the routine, and the will to follow it every single morning.”

—Manisha Gupta, screenwriter and filmmaker, New Delhi, India

Add meditation into your routine

“I have always had a morning routine including journaling and yoga, but recently I have added an additional meditation or prayer into my routine. I took up meditation about two months ago, shortly after social distancing began. It has completely changed my life by bringing a positive, clear mindset to my day. Whenever I have feelings of stress throughout the day, I now turn to meditation. Slow breathing calms me down and helps me realize the situation isn’t as bad as I think and I can get through it.”

—Brie LaPrell, accountant, Buffalo, NY 

How are you focusing on protecting your mental health right now? Share your tips with us in the comments.

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.