Did you know May is Mental Health Awareness Month? Due to COVID-19, it’s easy to feel a little down. Weddings are postponed, graduation parties are cancelled, smiles are covered by masks, and a hug is frowned upon. Our mental health is at as high of risk as our physical health during this pandemic, so we’re sharing some tips to focus on your mental well-being.
Here are some excellent ways to take care of your mental health this week!
- Prioritize your sleep. Proper sleep helps regulate chemicals in your brain and allows your brain to rest and your immune system to recharge. You may find it helpful to shut down all electronics an hour before bed, and spend some time reading or listening to music or background noise to wind down.
- Eat well. Mineral deficiencies can contribute to low moods. Several studies show a connection between the Mediterranean approach (which is high in omega-3, vitamin B, vitamin D, healthy fats, and antioxidants) and mental health. It includes mood boosting foods such as fatty fish rich in Omega 3 (salmon or tuna), nuts (cashews, walnuts, and almonds), legumes, and leafy greens (brussels sprouts, spinach, or kale).
- Avoid drugs and excessive use of alcohol. Drugs and alcohol are depressants. Avoid using these substances for your overall mental and physical health and well being.
- Get in the sun. Sunlight synthesizes vitamin D, which releases endorphins and serotonin. Remember the sunscreen and spend 30 minutes outside every day.
- Do something you enjoy for no other reason than it makes you feel good. Sing along to the radio, play with your pet, watch a favorite tv show, start on a backyard project.
- Connect with others. Face to face is not always possible, but social distancing is more about physical distance. Maintaining connection with friends and family is still important to avoid feeling the loneliness and isolation. Fortunately, we are in a time where we can reach out with FaceTime, Snapchat, a text, or a call. You could also try sending a card or a letter to let someone know you’re thinking about them.
- Do something for others. Helping others increases your sense of value and sense of community. While there are some organizations needing volunteers right now, this could also be something as simple as holding the door for someone or giving a compliment.
- Focus on the positive. How you think often affects how you feel. At this current time many of us feel stressed, anxious and scared. One way to manage these thoughts is to focus on what you can control – washing your hands, practicing social distancing, avoiding unnecessary trips out. Try writing something you are grateful for each day. It could be something overall like family or health, or it could be something specific to that day like your son set the table for dinner or you enjoyed the scented candle you lit. You could also add one thing you accomplished that day. These little gratitudes and accomplishments add up over time.
- Activity and exercise. This does not have to look like working out in the gym or on a Peloton. Even walking through your neighborhood or in the woods or following along with a yoga video on YouTube can help lower your stress levels and increase endorphins.
- Manage your stress. Make a list of the situations that increase your stress response and identify ways that will help you cope when stress and anxiety symptoms escalate.
- Remember to take a break. If you need to step away from the mess in the kitchen, the work emails, or the online schooling assignment, do it. Try an easy breathing exercise (take 10 breaths, in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, and exhale for the count of 4). Listen to a favorite song. Stretch. If prayer is important to you, make time for it now. Listen to a short, guided meditation on the phone apps Calm or Headspace. Just a few minutes away can give you a new perspective for the task at hand.
- Laugh and smile. We’ve heard laughter is good for the soul, but according to several studies, science has shown that smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, lower your blood pressure, and boost your immune system. So, watch a comedy, check out cute animal videos online, or listen to funny podcasts.
- Ask for help. If things get to be too much for you, ask for help. No one has this whole thing figured out. Ask your partner to wash and fold that load of laundry. Ask your kids to help with the dinner. Call a friend and tell them you need to talk. Ask your boss to prioritize your workload.
If you’re struggling with a mental health condition, you might feel alone. No one in your inner social circle has dealt with this problem, at least to your knowledge. Is something wrong with me? you might think. Why can’t I just be normal? Should thoughts like these ever pop into your mind, remember: Conditions like these are fairly common, and luckily, it’s easy to treat many of them. Below are a handful of illustrative statistics regarding mental health in America:
1 in 5: This is the number of Americans who experience a mental health problem each year.
9.8 million: This is the number of American adults who have a serious mental health disorder. This translates to roughly one in 25 adults.
6.9%: This is the number of adults with major depression in the U.S.
18.1%: This is the number of adults with anxiety disorders in the U.S.
No. 1: Across the world, depression is the leading cause of disability.
2 to 1: Women are twice as likely to experience major depression as men.
The following are results from the annual Stress in America survey conducted by the APA:
74%: The number of adults who said they had a physical or emotional symptom due to stress in the previous month.
91%: The number of Gen Zers (ages 15 to 21) who said they had a physical or emotional symptom due to stress in the previous month.
1 in 5: The number of adults who don’t feel as though they do enough to manage their stress.
64%: The number of adults who feel stressed by work.
63%: The number of adults who feel stress because of health concerns.
64%: The number of adults who feel stress due to money.
48%: The number of adults who feel stress due to the state of the economy.
So remember, if you feel like you’re struggling with some mental health issues – you are not alone. And you shouldn’t have to suffer alone!
If you are currently receiving mental health or substance use services stay the course. Due to COVID-19, the federal government has expanded access to Teletherapy through video chat, Telehealth, and Telephonic appointments.
Georgia HOPE is currently providing Mental Health and Substance Use services throughout the state of Georgia via TeleMental Health. If you, or someone you know, are interested in services, you can submit a referral online to us or call 706-279-0405.
If you’re interested in learning more about our services, please contact us here.
We are all in this together. Stay well! #HOPEisHere