May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and self-care, eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health disorders, and educating the public on the importance of routine mental health care. Mental health goes beyond the scope of diagnosing and treating mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Mental health also includes being aware of our moods, our thought patterns, our social connections, our ability to solve problems, our ability to overcome tricky hurdles, and our ability to comprehend and navigate the world around us.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Our mental health can positively or negatively affect many areas of our life including our professional life, our home life, our social life, our sleep and eating patterns, our energy levels, our ability to think clearly, and how we feel about ourselves.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community.”
Our mental health is a fluid state of equilibrium between our innermost workings and the outside environment.
Taking care of our mental health during a pandemic
For many, COVID-19 has been a trying time. Many of us have struggled with staying home and keeping our distance from our friends and family. Many of us are struggling financially due to the economy shutdown or job loss, and many of us are struggling to find peace amongst this stressful time. We are struggling to find a healthy daily routine, we are struggling to find happiness, and we are struggling to find purpose. There are so many unknowns during this time of uncertainty, which can negatively affect our mental health by leading us to feelings of anxiety, anger, or depression.
We must take care of ourselves both mentally and physically, especially during this trying time.
Ways to practice kindness towards ourselves to take care of our minds, bodies, and souls:
- Connect with others: Even though we are practicing social distancing and we may feel physically isolated from our friends, family, and neighbors, we can still connect virtually. Staying connected with our friends and family is essential for our well being as healthy social connections are known to improve our mood and boost our self-esteem. There are many great virtual platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and Face Time that can help us connect with our friends, family, and coworkers. Virtual game nights, virtual storytime, virtual birthdays parties, and celebrations are all great ways to stay connected with each other, while still respecting the social distancing orders.
- Nourish your body: The body and mind are tightly connected, and therefore physical health is a huge component of mental health, especially during stressful times. Learning new recipes, cooking at home, eating nutritious whole foods, daily exercise, drinking plenty of water, and getting eight uninterrupted hours of sleep each night are all crucial ways to nourish our bodies so we can have a healthy mind.
- Sharpen your mind: While many of us are at home during COVID-19, we may find that we have more free time. We can spend this free time learning a new hobby, reading a book, working on home improvement projects, and completing unfinished tasks. Learning new things, reading, completing puzzles, and working on arts and crafts are all great ways to exercise our brains. Mental stimulation is anything that activates or enriches the mind. Stimulation can be provided internally from thought or externally from the environment. Education, occupation, social and leisure activities are all essential contributors to mental stimulation. Enriching mental activity can help improve our memory and problem-solving skills, which are essential skills to have when we must focus on our mental health.
- Continue therapy: Mental health is more than a mental health disorder. It encompasses our thought patterns, our behaviors, our relationships, and our self-esteem. Even if we are not diagnosed with a mental health disorder, many of us can benefit from professional therapy.
- Maybe we are experiencing a stressful time or a loss in the family. Perhaps we are more sad than usual or are struggling with finding a healthy way to cope. Therapy is an integral part of taking care of our mental health, especially during COVID-19.
- Adopt a daily routine: Getting into a routine is essential. It helps us focus, helps us stay busy, and helps us be productive. When our habits are thrown off, we can often find ourselves in a rut or feeling bored or depressed. Our daily COVID-19 routine could be much different than before, but it is still important to adopt a regular daily schedule so we can continue to feel good about ourselves.
“Our philosophy at Quest 2 Recovery is simple: heal the mind, body, and spirit in a family-like environment. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, one that caters to each individual’s distinct needs. As a trauma-based treatment program, we believe in resolving the underlying issues that brought the onset of substance use. Our team of clinicians helps each client identify the faulty belief systems stemming from childhood, then psych-educate clients on the symptoms of PTSD to understand and alleviate the power of certain triggers”.