When it comes to protecting ourselves during the current COVID-19 pandemic, it can be easy to focus exclusively on physical health – making sure we are following CDC guidelines, practicing social distancing and doing everything we can to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe and healthy. All those things are very important. But there is another important facet of our health that we should not ignore during this time – our mental health. National Mental Health Month is observed each May to provide a platform for discussing mental health and raising awareness of the important role it plays in our lives. This May, as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, it is more essential than ever.
Our mental health has a big influence on our overall health and well-being. Not only does it affect how productive we are at work, how we make decisions and how we cope with stress, but it can also affect our physical health. Take stress for example. Stress can have a direct impact on our immune system, and when we are not able to cope with stress adequately, it can compromise our body’s ability to fight off illness.
Mental health issues are very common, affecting millions of Americans each year. During difficult times like we are currently experiencing in our community and around the world, many of us are faced with unforeseen physical, social and economic challenges that can elevate stress, depression and other mental health issues and even have an impact in those who normally are not affected by these conditions. The bottom line? If you are suffering, you are not alone.
The good news is that there are some things you can do to help alleviate stress and boost your mental health – not just during the challenges we are facing today, but in all situations:
Checking-in regularly with family, friends and work colleagues
Taking time to relax, recharge and rest
Getting outside with safe social distancing, and getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your day
Spending quality time doing something you love, whether it is a hobby, reading a good book or watching a favorite movie or television show
Maintaining healthy, nutritious eating and staying hydrated
Avoiding unhelpful coping strategies like alcohol, drug and tobacco use
Focusing on the things that you can control and accepting what you cannot and
Avoiding excessive time watching news and social media
Another thing to remember about mental health? It is okay to talk about it. A safe, supportive and accepting environment is important if you are suffering. Just as most people wouldn’t think twice about seeing a doctor for chest pain or other serious physical symptoms, it is important to proactively seek help and get the medical attention you need if you are experiencing a mental health condition.
How about some more good news? The prognosis for mental health conditions is good. In fact, most people who seek treatment for a mental health condition do show improvement. If you are experiencing a mental health issue, the benefits of seeking help and treatment can make a positive difference in your overall quality of life.
Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be reached at 800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
Visit www.mgh.org for more information, or call 906-449-300.