Keeping Mentally Fit in a Pandemic: 3 Key Areas To Focus On

Mitigating stress during dark times.
Opt for a diet filled with nutrient rich foods rather than refined sugars for optimal mental health.

By Asha Tarry, LMSW, CLC

Living in constant change during the coronavirus pandemic has led many people to experience emotional highs and lows due to this stress. For some people, the highs are quite dramatic, even manic. For others, the lows are more persistent. As a mental health care provider, my role is to guide people through the terrain of emotional lability (characterized by rapid, dramatic changes in mood) and into a stable, consolidated self. Irrespective of which healing method I use, I believe the process must be collaborative and well-informed for it to be the most beneficial to clients. Some of the ways we begin to become more mentally fit include getting more sleep, eating better food and strengthening our relationships.   


How often does your sleep pattern change when you’re stressed, unhappy or worried? Sleep is one of the most critical components of mental fitness. It impacts every other aspect of your health. When I am sitting in my office talking to clients about their mental health concerns, most times what I am also looking for is their approach to sleep. It’s not typically the thing they want to talk about, but I put focus on it for several reasons. It is in our sleep that our subconscious mind reveals unresolved issues from our waking hours. It is also during our sleep cycle that the brain has time to recover from thinking and processing, and also regenerate new brain cells. Whenever one of my clients is in a persistently bad mood, or experiencing a sudden short-term decline in their memory, it’s often reported with a change in their sleep routine. As adults, we need seven to nine hours of restful sleep a night for optimal functioning. When that is interrupted, other parts of our life will be affected, including our relationship with food and people.  


Food—and how it’s used—represents so many things to so many people. For some, food provides comfort in times of distress. For others, food is how someone expresses joy and love. But most importantly, food heals us. Research shows that what we eat also has a direct impact on mood and long-term memory. According to a report from Harvard Medical School, “multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function—and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.” (March 2020, If we can learn to respect food the way it was meant to be used, we can begin to see the benefits from the foods that keep us physically and mentally strong.


If ever there was ever a time to strengthen our relationships, now is it. As we age, our life changes, and so do the people in our lives. Creating healthy relationships begins with expressing your needs to others and being honest about your boundaries. Boundaries teach people how to treat you. Emotionally mature relationships teach us about each other. The beauty is that both can be reciprocated.

Asha Tarry is the “Prosperity” Life Coach & Psychotherapist.