May is Mental Health Awareness Month and has been observed since 1949 by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and various mental health practitioners across the country. According to NAMI 1 in 5 adults in America will experience mental illness this year; that equates to about 6.5 million Americans. It’s an interesting juxtaposition considering the world seems to be falling apart due to the Coronavirus. Although things can seem catastrophic on the outside, it’s still important to remember that you have control over your response to panic and anxiety, and how you choose to cope with your stress.
You’ve probably read your fair share of articles detailing how to cope with stress and anxiety from the Coronavirus, so this article isn’t necessarily presenting you with anything new. But reminders never hurt. We’ve forgotten to take care of our very basic needs, including our mental health, and part of that includes how you respond to your normal, everyday stressors.
The following strategies are good reminders for how you can cope with stress, whether we’re in a pandemic or not.
Take care of yourself
You’ve heard the term before: self-care! It’s permeated our culture to include everything from face masks, to setting boundaries, to “treating yo’ self”. Self-care also includes the basic needs of every living thing, which a lot of people tend to forget. It’s not just about treating yourself, it’s about keeping yourself healthy, both physically and mentally! Make sure you are eating healthy, well-balanced meals. Try to exercise on a regular basis, at least 30 minutes a day. Sleep is SO essential! Get plenty of sleep, especially now; try to aim for at least eight hours. Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out. It’s okay to not be constantly productive, especially now when the pandemic is already emotionally exhausting.
Talk to others
Social support is key for dealing with stress and other mental health concerns. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor. If you have a close circle of friends, or even a couple acquaintances, reach out and see how they are doing. Strike up a conversation and share how you are feeling and some ways you are trying to cope with your stress and mental health.
Avoid drugs and alcohol
These may seem to help, but they can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.Liquor stores have been deemed essential business in the State of New York, interestingly enough, but it’s important to still drink with moderation.
Take a break
If news events are causing your stress, take a break from listening or watching the news. This includes social media, so try to give yourself break from social media when you need to. Taking a break can also include those fun “Treat Yo’ Self” activities discussed at the beginning of the article. Write your thoughts in a journal, do a face mask or have a home spa day, buy a little trinket you’ve been meaning to get, play a fun game, do some sports, watch your favorite TV series, read a book, the possibilities are endless.
Recognize when you need more help
If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor. You can always reach out to us at Capital EAP at (518) 465-3813 or you can visit our website at capitaleap.org.
By Marion White, MHC-LP, EAP Counselor
To honor Mental Health Awareness Month, NAMI has created the WhyCare? campaign, which is an opportunity to share the importance of mental health treatment, support and services to the millions of people, families, caregivers and loved ones affected by mental illness and a challenge to address broken systems and attitudes that present barriers to treatment and recovery.
There are many ways to get involved and demonstrate WhyCare? by sharing stories about why you care for others, how support or care from others has affected you, or what it means to have access to care by sharing through text, graphics, video or any other medium.Use the hashtags #NAMICares and #WhyCare.