How to Improve Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this article, read even more of Tayte’s articles on our website

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the physical and mental health of a great number of people around the world including trail runners. Many of us may feel isolated or lost and struggle to stay positive during these difficult times. Listed below are my six tips for maintaining strong mental health and finding joy in tough situations.

Practice Sympathetic Joy
Sympathetic joy refers to the feeling of being happy for the well-being of others. Practicing sympathetic joy will help you increase your own happiness by learning to appreciate the joy and good fortune in the world around you. Be joyful for the happiness of your friends, family, coworkers and even strangers and you will find yourself sharing in their happiness too.

Photo from the before times: ActivAcuity creator Terry Chiplin with ATRA Founder Nancy Hobbs.

Use Positive Imagery
Positive imagery is a powerful mental practice that can help you realize your goals. Many of the trail runners in the world practice positive imagery to step up their mental training and focus on achieving their athletic goals. I recommend using the guided meditation app, ActivAcuity, which will teach you guided imagery techniques and ways you can incorporate them into your training and daily life.

What Can You Do?
Be grateful for the things you can do, as opposed to being unhappy with what you can’t do.This principle applies to your training and life in general. If you’re currently in quarantine and confined to exercising indoors, be grateful you are healthy enough to workout. Shift your attitude to thinking about the things you can do to stay healthy and happy. I’ve used my time during the coronavirus pandemic to develop more in-home strength routines, as well as spend more time baking in the kitchen.

Think Long Term
Establishing long-term visions and goals will help you get through more immediate challenges and unfortunate situations. Perhaps we’re not in an ideal place for our training or lives right now, but it won’t always be this way. Thinking long term helps us see beyond negative situations and focus on bringing about brighter futures.

Learn New Skills
Take advantage of your extra time at home by increasing your knowledge and learning new skills. Now is a great time to take up a new hobby, sign up for online classes, or read. I’ve spent my extra time learning new songs on my guitar, reading novels and training-related articles, and practicing my cookie baking. Looking to expand your knowledge on a variety of interesting topics? Check out our series of social distance learning videos with ATRA founder and executive director, Nancy Hobbs.

Stay Connected
Staying connected to loved ones helps bring us happiness and a sense of community that we may be lacking during these hard times. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be difficult to meet with friends and family in person, but we should still do everything we can to stay connected with those closest to us. Set up video calls, send messages, update your friends and family on how you’re doing and remind them how awesome they are. One short call or message can change someone’s day for the better.

Editor’s Note: Be safe as we continue to navigate the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic. Please continue to follow the recommendations and updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including proper hygiene practices. Also consider reading iRunFar’s COVID-19: A Trail Running and Ultrarunning Community Guide.

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