Jan. 31, 2022

Renewed Focus on Mental Health

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Reports and surveys show increased worry and anxiety starting with the onset of the COVID-19 lockdowns and continuing, even today, for some people. On the Mayo Clinic’s website, experiences of stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, loneliness, and insomnia top the list of mental health symptoms reported. While we like to pretend most of these symptoms will never apply to us, they are all an integral part of the human experience regardless of who you are.

Just as Britney Spears’ classic debut single “Baby One More Time” released in 1998 influenced the musical sounds of an entire generation, her ability to publicly speak about her experience under a 13-year-long conservatorship shined a spotlight on mental health.

The public culmination of what happened to Spears came at a poignant time: in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. The value of an influential public figure getting help was also significant. It broke down the societal stigmas associated with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, emotional problems, and mental illness. It normalized side effects and health conditions everyone feels from time to time but were perhaps heightened by the strangeness and uncertainty of COVID-19.

It is important to understanding that feeling sad or not quite yourself is common for everyone. Whether they are a part of our everyday lives or are triggered by specific events, they are not unusual. However, how we handle things like feelings of loneliness, specific phobias, and panic attacks is crucial to our overall health. For example, reliance on alcohol and drugs to cope with pandemic fears oftentimes only worsen the reports of social anxiety and depression.

It can be challenging to take care of yourself. The best practices are not always clear. Coping with anxiety or depression from COVID-19 is even harder since it feels like it is so unavoidable. However, the following self-care strategies are gaining popularity as a healthier way to take charge of your life during the uncertainty of the pandemic.

How Physical Health Relates to Mental Health

Be mindful of what your body needs to stay healthy. This could include more sleep, good nutrition, or regular exercise. Avoid substances that could do more harm than good such as alcohol or drugs, unless taking prescribed medications from your doctor.

Screen Time and its Relationship with Your Mental Health

Being informed is good but having too much access to a constant stream of news can backfire. Plus, social media can also have negative effects on mood and expose people to rumors or false information. Look for reliable sources and keep your usage in check. Turning off devices prior to bedtime can also be positive and helpful for quality rest.

Keep a Regular Routine

Repetition can allow you to feel in control. Be sure to include time in your schedule to relax. A regular sleep routine, consistent mealtimes and 30-minutes of daily exercise also can help.

Staying Positive When You Don’t Have Energy

Keeping problems in perspective can help you beat feelings of anxiety and depression. Reflecting on achievements and being grateful for blessings in your life are additional ways to improve your outlook. Some days may be better than others, but every step in the right direction matters when trying to stay positive.

Ask for Help if You Need it

Connection is oftentimes the best way to overcome difficulties. Be sure to build support and strengthen relationships. This can be done remotely with virtual socializing, or from a safe and masked distance if in person. If you experience strong feelings of anxiety, loneliness, or fear you may harm yourself or others, reach out for help as quickly as possible. Telehealth services are a great option to access mental health services quickly from the comfort of your own home.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, their Helpline received 833,598 calls in 2020. The SAMHSA’s website says that’s a 27 percent increase from 2019, when the Helpline received 656,953 calls for the year. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services division operates their confidential and free Helpline 24/7, 365 days a year. Individuals or families facing mental and/or substance use disorders are encouraged to call for treatment referrals and information services.

In conclusion, it's important to stay active and eating nutritiously can go a long way to improving your health. Having a proper sleep schedule (meaning falling asleep at the same time every night and staying asleep) can also give you more energy and keep you in the right state of mind for social situations. They may seem simple, but by taking some time to focus on yourself you can avoid long term health risks.

We hope you have found these tips on improving mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic useful. Feel free to share your personal experiences and tips with us on social media. By doing so you continue to normalize conversations impacting so many!

Group of people sitting around a table with their hands together eating a well-balanced meal.
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