This has been a challenging season to say the least. At first when the pandemic hit, many of us seemed fine. We were all sent to work at home and just did our best to stay entertained. Heck, it was even novelty for awhile. Although, there are clearly horrifying aspects and heartbreaking situations surrounding COVID-19, on the other hand, it kinda felt like all the world was having one big sleepover and found ways to keep in touch online. (Thank goodness that was even an option.)

However, as reality has hit and more of us have been affected either directly or indirectly by this virus, the shine has worn off and the new "normal" has become a dark shadow in the rooms of our psyches. Those prone to depression have suffered quite a bit and we are crestfallen over the cancellation of many events and celebrations we love. Not to mention having to postpone those sanity-saving vacations and/or dealing with economic hardship. More than ever, we must be intentional about caring for ourselves. Like--really. It's not just optional anymore.

The Trauma Stewardship Institute has compiled a list of strong suggestions we should consider implementing into our daily lives in order to stay emotionally and mentally healthy. Here are a few of their recommendations:

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Protect Your Mornings. The way you engage your day in the first moments upon awaking can set a tone for your entire day. Do your best to set some mental health boundaries in the morning and take some time, even a little, to mentally prepare for the day. Whether that's uplifting reading, prayer or mediation, or even spending a few moments outside with your cup of coffee. The goal is to start your day with more intentionality about your day--and less cortisol (the stress hormone.)

Go Outside. (Or At Least Look Outside.) It's easy to get caught up in the daily madness of our human world. Spending time outside helps to put things into context and gives us the opportunity to notice something larger than the daily doings and the drama of our worlds.

Be Active. We already know exercise and just keeping your body moving is important for physical health. However, speaking from personal experience, it is also hugely important for avoiding stagnation in life, generally. Cuz: It's all connected--Mind, body, spirit.

Cultivate Relationships. Obviously, this has been more of a challenge lately. But. Anything we can do to safely keep spending time with those who truly support you is edifying and healthy.

Nurture Gratitude. Even if you feel like your life is crazy right now, maybe especially if that's the case, finding and affirming those things for which are grateful is crucial to maintaining emotional health.

Detox. If you're in a situation where you're stuggling to manage any addictions, please be careful and get help if you need it.

Spend Time With Animals. Research shows this lowers stress hormones and definitely amps up a sense of comfort.

Embrace Simplicity. This goes for both your physical surroundings and how much information you allow yourself to take in. Protect yourself from "cognitive overload."

Admire Art. Have you ever noticed when times get hard, humans often turn to art? That may be visual art, movies, or music. Art reminds of beauty, truth, and can transport us.

LAUGH! This is a true need for me--and probably you, too. Humans need comedically release sometimes. It helps relax you and puts things into perspective.

Sleep. I know it's easier said than done, but do what you can to optimize your rest at night. Your body NEEDS this to cleanse and repair itself.

What other ways are you caring for yourself right now? Share with us in the comments below. Stay safe.