It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our lives, namely, our mental health. Since the pandemic began, over 20 percent of U.S. adults have experienced increased stress and mental illness. This includes problems with sleep, substance use, anxiety, etc. It is a concerning trend, but the good news is now people are taking mental health seriously and discussing what we can do to take care of ourselves.
What is mental health? According to the World Health Organization, it is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes their abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.” Simply, it is the health of your mind.
Mental health is a continuum; in other words, it changes over time. As you can see from the image below, a majority of individuals fall into the middle range and travel up and down over their lifetime. A key piece to managing your mental health is knowing where you fall on the continuum at a given time because you will then know when you need to ask for help.
*If you are unsure where you land, talk to a professional about what you are experiencing. Self-diagnosing symptoms can be misleading and potentially unsafe.
Mental health is also related to stress (the state of mental tension or worry caused by events in your life), and it is something we have to manage if the source of stress is positive or negative, big or small. Almost eight out of ten people are experiencing some level of stress throughout the week; it is a part of our everyday lives. So, what are some things you can do to support your mental health?
- Set boundaries with colleagues, friends, and family
- Identifying your support system
- Incorporate positive social media and limit the amount of time spent on social media
- Spend quality time with friends and family
Due to the pandemic, some of the ways people cope with stress and take care of their mental health are limited or no longer available to them. For instance, many individuals are now working from home and find it hard to make time for themselves. Here are a few tips to support your mental health if you are working from home:
- Create a routine for both personal and work activities
- Specify your workspace (versus personal)
- Specify your work time (once you are done, you are done!)
- Create boundaries (physical and mental)
- Take frequent breaks (10 minute walk, stretching, meals, etc.)
Sometimes these day-to-day techniques still aren’t enough, and we need a full day or days to recover. How do you know when you need to take this break? Comfort with this decision will vary. However, ask yourself what you would ask yourself for a typical sick day! It comes down to knowing yourself and where you fall on the mental health continuum. You can approach it like you would a typical sick day, “I won’t be able to make it in; I am not feeling well.” Remember: your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Lastly, below are several resources for those who are looking for additional support:
Mobile apps: PTSD Coach, Virtual Hope Box, Happify (encouraged to read reviews prior to starting any at: https://onemindpsyberguide.org/apps/
Find a Therapist (Psych Today): https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline/Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/