By Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, President of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.
Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed nationally in the month of May since 1949. It was created by Mental Health America to educate Americans about mental illness and mental health. Its goals include fighting stigma, providing support, educating the public, and advocating for policies that support people with mental illness and their families. Eliminating stigma is crucial to helping people feel more comfortable accessing treatment and our mental health and well-being are just as important as our physical health.
Today, we are far more aware of our mental health. Anxiety, depression, and substance misuse are rising. Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
The Coronavirus global pandemic has made many people realize the relevance of mental health to everyone, from front-line health workers, first responders, essential service workers, to people dealing with the repercussions of grief and economic insecurity.
We are all experiencing a range of feelings and emotions right now and this is normal. Here are a few tips for mental health self-care:
Normalize mental health challenges.
Mental health challenges are very common in ordinary times. In times of crisis and prolonged stress, mental health vulnerability increases for everyone, and pre-existing issues can be exacerbated. Talk about how you are feeling with friends and family.
Reach out to your friends and family and connect via phone or FaceTime. With all of the technology we have at our fingertips, make use of your social network to not be isolated.
Exercise. During stressful times going outside and taking a brisk walk can help you relax, boost your mood, and help you in managing your stress levels.
Eat a healthy diet – research has shown that what you eat—and don’t eat—affects the way you think and feel.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol is a depressant and drinking too much can often make your mood and anxiety levels worse.
Get enough sleep. Make sure to put self-care as a priority and do your best to get enough sleep. Sleep has many benefits and during stressful times it can help aid in keeping your mind and body healthy.
Continue to consume the news in moderation.
While it is important to stay informed and up to date on the latest information about the Coronavirus, too much information adds to our stress levels. The repetitive nature of the news reports is not good for our mental health. Once you are informed, turn off the news and do something you enjoy.
Most importantly, know that being anxious at this time is a completely normal response to stress. Should the stress be too much for you to take do not suffer in silence, please seek professional help.