10 Ideas to Ease the Mind—& Help You Relax

Amid all the focus on our physical health, our minds need a check-in, too.

April  2, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.

Last night I finally had the breakdown that’s been bubbling up inside of me for days. It was Day Ten of our social isolation period; I hadn’t been physically outside my apartment door in maybe five days, and my boyfriend and I had been working from home together for over a week—tensions were high.

It started where it often does, in the kitchen post-dinner—pots, pans, dishware, and crumbs scattered about our small kitchen. But after an intensely stressful week for us all, and much time for me spent in the kitchen, my emotions and anxiety got the best of me and it escalated into a blowout.

While my frustration was warranted (or at least I think it was), my outburst was an indication to me that I need to prioritize my mental health during this insanely stressful, strange time. If you’re finding yourself mentally uneasy during this time, consider practicing one of the ten activities below to keep your mental health a priority this month. I think I’ll be needing to take some of my own advice, too.

1. Go outside if you’re allowed to

Unless your state has put an order in place that you shouldn’t go outside for any other reason aside from getting groceries or picking up your medications, make an effort to walk around the block every day. Getting in nature (even if it’s the sight of a small shrub on the sidewalk amidst the concrete jungle you live in) may significantly reduce levels of rumination, or repetitive thoughts focused on negative aspects of the self, and decrease feelings of depression.

2. Give your brain a workout

While it’s important to be moving your body to boost those feel-good endorphins, it’s just as vital (especially now) to be giving your brain a great workout, too. Meditation has been practiced for centuries by many to ease psychological stresses like depression, pain, and anxiety, and it’s easy to practice at home. Meditation apps like Headspace and Simple Habit opened up their memberships to non-paying customers, while other programs, like Ziva Meditation are offering special discounts on their programs as we try to navigate through this difficult time. I’ve been using the Ziva Meditation program this week, and it’s been immensely helpful.

3. Facetime or Skype with family and friends

Before I moved to Boston to move in with my partner, I lived alone in a small studio apartment in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The isolation I felt during that time was truly life-changing (for better and for worse), but it forced me to learn just how vital human connection truly is. Set a date with your long-distance family members to hop on a call, or Facetime friends every few days, even if you’re exhausted after a long workday from home. Your heart and your head will thank you afterwards.

4. Get your medications filled

It might be harder than ever to get motivated and out of the house to pick up your prescription, but now is the most important time to keep up on the doctor’s orders. Thankfully, many pharmacies are offering order-ahead-for-pick-up options via apps, and even at-home delivery services if you aren’t able to make it to the store.

5. Download a mental health app

The world of telemedicine has seen an understandable surge in the last few weeks, especially telepsychiatry. MindCare is just one of the multiple telepsychiatry apps offering anxiety and depression treatment, while other apps, like Talkspace, LARKR, and BetterHelp offer users a therapist to talk out your feelings. If you’re already seeing a therapist, ask them if you can set up a Facetime or Skype session to continue your treatments together.

6. Cut down on the caffeine

Sure, lots of us are terribly dependent on caffeine, but now might not be the best time to be downing three or four cups a day. A 2005 study found that excessive caffeine consumption can lead to spiraling symptoms associated with anxiety and sleep disorders. Consider swapping your regular morning mug of coffee for a caffeine-free tea instead. It’ll be an adjustment period, but it might be the break your heart rate needs.

7. Be thoughtful about what you read

If you are someone who lives with anxiety, or if you just find yourself overwhelmed in this time, it might be a good idea to limit your COVID-19 news consumption to checking just once or twice daily, rather than letting it take over your whole day. Additionally, make sure you are getting your information from trusted sources, like the CDC or WHO, avoiding unregulated online news sources.

8. Limit social media usage

If you find yourself sad, anxiety-ridden and/or depressed after using social media for an extended period of time, now might be a great time to take a break from it. If you can’t seem to get off of it, you can use an app on your phone to limit your screen time, mute the people on Instagram you can’t deal with, or head on over to TikTok—it’s been the relief I never knew I needed.

9. Avoid burnout

When you’re suddenly forced to work from home, it’s not always easy to separate work time from leisure time. To avoid burnout—yes, it’s real—make sure you’re setting time limits, sticking to a normal routine, and turning off notifications or other distractions so you can get done what you need to get done. Then, as when you generally leave the office, turn off work for the rest of the night.

10. Practice gratitude

While it may feel too self-centered to focus on things you’re grateful for during a pandemic, it might actually be the positive boost your mental health needs to get through this difficult time. Take a few minutes each morning to write down five things you are grateful for—it’ll help shift your mindset to a more positive one for the rest of the day. Take a deep breath, there is something to be grateful for every day.

How are you making sure your mental health is a priority right now? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Daley Quinn

Written by: Daley Quinn

Daley is a beauty and wellness journalist living in Boston.


marilu July 29, 2020
A very nice and well-needed reminder during these times :). I think you hit each of these points perfectly. They’ve all been helpful for me and hopefully can be helpful for others. Wishing you the very best! Thank you for the article!
Liz S. April 5, 2020
I am fortunate to be able to get out for long walks and I try to make sure that when I'm out (with my dog and even my cat), I focus on them and being outside, i.e. stay in the moment. I have worked from home for 35 years, but I struggled, particularly last week (3) with being distracted and having difficulty focusing on a task. Usually, I set a schedule for work, breaks, house stuff but allow flexibility. I decided that for the short term I needed to nix the flexibility and for the last 2 days am making myself a list with exact times, using my phone timer and alarm. It has helped tremendously and in addition to getting done what I wanted to, I felt mentally so much calmer and just happy with a sense of accomplishment. Everything in the article makes good sense but #10 works for me when I'm feeling frustrated by uncertainty: focusing on what is good and what I can do vs what I cannot do and being grateful … and I do have much to be grateful for. Thanks for the article!