It is estimated that one in five Americans will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. To highlight the importance of maintaining sound mental and emotional health, Mental Health America has designated May as Mental Health Month 2020. Observed since 1949, Mental Health Month offers opportunities to educate yourself about mental illness, connect with mental health resources, improve self-care, and enhance caregiving skills.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has added a new level of concern and uncertainty to our already complex lives. Managing these new stressors can be difficult, especially for those already coping with a mental health diagnosis. Fortunately, there are some things each of us can do during the coronavirus quarantine, both to reduce stress and improve our mental (and physical) health.
Coping with stress can be difficult, especially during times of global uncertainty. Over time, it can become easy to lose track of daily routines, neglect personal hygiene, and skimp on preparing nutritious meals. Here are a few things you can do to help maintain healthful habits and reduce stress.
Follow a set schedule. Establishing and maintaining a routine for sleep, mealtimes, bathing, and exercise can help create a sense of stability.
Prepare nutritious meals. Grocery shopping during the pandemic can be stressful. Gloves, masks, and social distancing requirements can make even a routine trip to the supermarket seem daunting or disorienting. Make a weekly meal plan and create a list of “must have” basics (fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, and healthy snacks) that you can use to ensure proper nutrition. Include some substitute items in your list, in case of shortages.
Make time for exercise. Physicians recommend 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily to keep your heart and body in shape. Whether you work out at home or go for a walk in the woods, exercise not only improves physical health, it’s a great way to release anxiety.
Stay connected with others. Social distancing has made it harder for us to see loved ones outside our homes. Fortunately, technology offers some handy solutions. Online calls let you chat face-to-face with friends and family, even when you can’t visit. And many mental health professionals are holding telephone sessions with clients to help provide continuity of care.
Normalizing Individual Experiences
It’s easy for our emotional landscapes to become treacherous in times of stress. One way to cope is to address and share the feelings we experience during difficult times.
Own your feelings. Emotions are not facts but they offer important clues to the way our minds work. By identifying, understanding, and accepting your emotions, you can begin to develop healthy strategies for stress reduction.
Connect with others. Whether you’re in an online session with a therapist or simply talking with others who share your fears and concerns, you can help improve your own mental and emotional health by staying connected. Sharing our experiences allows us to put feelings into context, and makes us feel less alone when keeping our distance is necessary.
Find silver linings. One can find comfort even in dire situations. Look to the positives in your life—family, friends, pets, interests, and hobbies—and structure activities around them.
Handling Coronavirus Stress Overload
If the rapid evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic has left you feeling anxious, you are not alone. Millions nationwide are experiencing the same crisis in real time. There are, however, a few ways to limit your daily stress.
Limit media exposure. In a large-scale health crisis like COVID-19, checking media sources hourly is more likely to increase stress than to reduce it. Instead, try taking breaks from the headlines. You may choose to set specific times a day when you let yourself check-in with the news.
Plan shopping trips. Shortages have made it hard to find some staple items on our market shelf. Plan your shopping so you can get the items you need, even if you have to make several stops. And be willing to make substitutions—not every store is experiencing the same shortages.
Look for ways to support others. One of the best ways to take the focus off our own fears and concerns is to help others. Whether you prepare donations of food or clothing for those in need, make masks or other PPE for friends or family, or attend support groups online, you’re helping to lighten the weight of the pandemic for all of us.
At Key Assets Kentucky, we take our clients’ mental health seriously. If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health diagnosis or are having trouble coping with the stresses imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic—you’re not alone. Our trained, compassionate staff is waiting to hear from you. Contact us today.
Key Assets Kentucky, is a behavioral health and child caring company based in Central Kentucky. Through our Key Assets Behavioral Health program and Children in Community Care program, we seek to positively impact the lives of children, young people, and their families. We specialize in offering support services via a residential treatment group home care for youth with autistic and/or developmental disabilities, and behavioral health counseling services for youth, adults and families in times of crisis.