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May is mental health awareness month and more people are struggling with their mental health than ever now, due to Coronavirus. Some of us have sick loved ones, others have experienced death and are grieving and all of us are feeling the effects of isolation from social distancing.
Evergreen Health is committed to the well-being of our patients and we know that in order to treat a patient, all parts of them, including their mental health, must be addressed. To kick off Mental Health Awareness month, we have compiled a list of ways to cope during COVID-19 for our patients and community.
It’s important to stay informed during this time, especially when it comes to learning precautionary measures to avoid the spread of Coronavirus. However, news outlets are currently running 24/7, cycling information that could involve speculation or worse, misinformation. This can have a detrimental affect on your mental health, encouraging you to focus on the worst-case scenario involving yourself, friends and family members.
We recommend that you limit your engagement with news platforms. This can come in the form of just listening to the daily news briefing, only watching the six o’clock news and avoiding news outlets that run all day or even avoiding the news entirely and asking a friend to brief you on any news you may need to know.
As we all know, the news can pop up on many different channels, including social media. For those with anxiety related to the news, taking a break from social media platforms, like Facebook, can be beneficial. Before ingesting any news, you also want to make sure it’s from a valid, unbiased news source. For tips on how to determine if news is fake or real, this article from National Public Radio outlines how to assess news stories.
Since we are all quarantined, it is more important than ever to reach out to the people who matter to you. This is a symbiotic action—both parties benefit from interaction. Connecting with friends and family members via phone, video or even letter can help you get through quarantine with a healthier mental outlook. It feels great to hear from someone who matters to you and be reminded of important connections, so we encourage people to set time aside to do just that. Call or video chat your friends from school, family members who live far away and your neighbors.
For people working remotely, connecting with co-workers can also help productivity. During a normal workday, pre-quarantine, we would learn about our coworkers lives outside of work. Connecting with co-workers helps you understand how others work best and creates a sense of comradery. Set aside time in your day for “water cooler chats,” named that because they often happen in the break room. Checking in with your coworkers is mutually beneficial. Remember, we are all in this together.
Taking the time to do things you enjoy helps your mental health. It’s easy to get caught up in daily duties, especially for those working from home or caring for children at home, and forget to take time for ourselves. Alternately, many people feel guilt taking part in activities they enjoy because others are in harm’s way, including hospital staff and grocery store workers. However, making time for activities you enjoy is essential to your mental health. It is one way you can take care of yourself and will help you adhere to social distancing protocol because you will feel more fulfilled.
Everyone is different—whether you like to read books, exercise, play video games or all of the above, take time to do things that give you enjoyment. There are so many activities we can do to fill our days with happiness. Playing a board game, solving a puzzle, embroidery, coloring, candle making, sewing, painting, taking photos, writing, tie-dying, turning up your music for a dance party, gardening, baking—the list goes on! Share your crafts and puzzles on social media to get tips from others and engage with friends and family.
Your body and mind are intrinsically linked. Caring for your body helps your mental wellbeing. It’s easy to sit on the couch all day, not showering or exercising, because our days aren’t structured in the same way as they were before COVID. However, doing so can make us feel worse. It’s important to get some kind of exercise on a regular basis. Remember, many of us are not getting in our normal steps because we don’t have to leave the house. Moving your body will release serotonin and endorphins, chemicals that help your mood, and decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s a scientifically-proven fact that exercise improves your mood!
Not everyone has exercise equipment at home, so we encourage you to get creative! Cans of soup or beans can substitute for light weights. Many exercises do not require props, like yoga and running. Luckily, the weather is improving as we transition into spring. We encourage people to take socially distanced walks, runs and hikes. Cycling is a great way to get your heart rate up and still explore your neighborhood. Online resources, like Yoga with Adriene show you how to exercise in your home with minimal supplies.
At home spa nights where you can take a bath, put on a facemask, light a candle and listen to music are wonderful at improving mood and taking care of your body. Changing out of pajamas in the morning and washing your face signal to your mind that it’s time to enjoy the day. We also recommend addressing any and all health concerns during this time. Go to your primary care appointments, get physical exams and walk in for STI testing.
You are not alone. This is an increasingly difficult time for so many people. Isolation can wreak havoc on mental health. If you want someone to talk to outside of friends and family, reach out to your counselor or mental health provider. If you’re not set up with a provider or feel that you need someone to talk to right now, call the following resources below:
Evergreen Health’s commitment to people who use drugs remains strong, with our syringe exchange program. We encourage those who use drugs or love people who use drugs to have Narcan on hand in case of an overdose. When picking up drug use supplies at Evergreen in Buffalo or Jamestown, make sure to stock up with a two-week supply so you don’t have to make frequent trips. Learn more about how Coronavirus affects people who use drugs.
There is absolutely no shame in reaching out for help. It takes a strong person to recognize that their coping methods are not helping them enough. These are unprecedented times. People who care about you and want to help you are available. Please reach out if you need help.
These times are difficult and isolation makes life harder, but you are not alone. These tips on how to cope during COVID-19 can be applied to your daily life to decrease feelings of anxiety and loneliness. Stay tuned throughout the month of May for more tangible ways to improve your mental health.