May is Mental Health Month. With this in mind, Cathy Sousa MSEd. PMC CCTP has written an article to highlight the importance of Mental Health and the significance of taking care of our minds and bodies to deal with and to prevent potential problems. Welcome, Cathy to Local Bermuda News and thank you for your contribution!
Cathy is a Professional Counselor with over 20 years of experience working with a wide client base. She has a particular interest in working with couples, families, and adolescents. Cathy is a passionate mental health advocate and is a Board Member of the Bermuda Mental Health Foundation. She is a member of the American Counseling Association and an Associate Member of the American Psychological Association and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Remember to follow her on Instagram!
– Stay Mindful Everyone!
May is Mental Health Month
Mental Health Month has been celebrated in the United States since 1949, initiated by Mental Health America to promote education about Mental Health and to reduce the stigma associated with mental health problems.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created such a strain on individuals and communities throughout the world, that mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are becoming far more prevalent. Those already experiencing mental health problems (prior to the pandemic) have had to work harder to manage their symptoms. Understandably, the changes in routines, responsibilities, social interaction, financial status, and health safety and security have, to varying degrees, had an impact on the mental health and well-being of all of us.
Anxieties around the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- Health-related fears from the virus itself.
- Fears related to existing or potential job losses.
- Difficulties experienced as a result of working from home and/or children being out of school.
- Current and projected economic problems.
So here are some suggestions to optimize our health in order to cope with increasing levels of stress, anxiety, loneliness, isolation, and depression:
Limit your exposure to the news media
This is one of the easiest and simplest things we can do to manage our anxiety. Yes, we need to have an idea of what’s going on around us, but constant exposure to the news, even in normal times, can be damaging to our mental health. The news media frequently catastrophize events, putting a greater negative spin on things to make them more exciting to viewers. We certainly don’t need that negativity in our lives.
Talk about how you’re feeling
Talking about our feelings is an important way to discharge some of our stress, allowing us to feel heard and validated. It reduces feelings of isolation and provides a sense of connection and support. Find someone you trust with whom to share what you’re experiencing. If you’d prefer a more private situation, contact a therapist, and take advantage of remote or in-office counseling sessions.
Structure your day
Structure provides a sense of safety and security for ourselves and our children (if we have them). It creates a sense of meaning and comfort – we know clearly what we’re doing and when. Create a calendar or use a diary/day planner and fill it out with your activities each day – you can include work time, relaxation, exercise, chores, meal times, etc.
Get adequate sleep, nutrition, and hydration
- 7-8 hours of sleep, healthy snack choices, and well-balanced meals.
- Sleep and nutrition play an important role in maintaining good health. Put simply, insufficient sleep causes additional stress on the body, reducing coping and resilience. Poor nutrition can impair our brain and body functioning, reducing our ability to make optimal choices for coping.
- Drink plenty of water – 8 glasses a day is the typical recommendation.
Engage in some form of exercise
Adequate levels of activity provide a variety of benefits including:
- improving blood flow to the brain
- increasing the production of “feel-good hormones”
- reducing stress hormones
- overall improvement in our sense of well-being
Ensure you have time for relaxation
Downtime is critical to optimal functioning. How you choose to relax is fairly individual, but here are some examples:
- Hobbies – playing golf, playing cards or board games, doing puzzles, knitting, crafting, painting, reading, video games, etc.
- Meditation, Yoga, Breathwork
Maintain Social Connections
Maintaining social connections is extremely important to our wellbeing. We are inherently social animals and connection with others is one of our basic human needs. In the midst of COVID – with social distancing and working from home – we must be especially vigilant and creative about connecting on a personal level, with others. Phone, messaging and skype are a few suggestions. The most important thing is to make the effort.
Prioritize your Spiritual Life
Maintaining a connection to a source greater than ourselves has been shown to be strongly associated with good mental health. Spirituality can involve traditional faith-based customs such as prayer, and can also be a connection with nature, universal energy, or anything that provides a sense of meaning and awe.
Begin Optimizing your Mental Health this Month
Overall, taking care of our mental health is not much different from taking care of our physical health. In fact, it is useful to bear in mind that the mind-body distinction is a false one – health is health; what benefits our brain benefits the rest of our body and vice versa.
So right this minute, go ahead and make a start. Choose one small thing, to begin with, and as you feel better you’ll be motivated to do more. It’s never too late to start doing good things for yourself! Optimizing your health will give you the resilience you need to get through difficult times.
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