May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from August 2020 through February, 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or a depressive disorder (commonly known as depression) increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, and the percentage of those reporting an unmet mental health care need increased from 9.2% to 11.7%.
If you’re living with a mental health issue or know someone who is, you are not alone.
Even in the best of times, anxiety, depression, and stress can take their toll on our mental wellbeing. During times when isolation and social distancing are necessary to protect public health, mental health issues can become even more pronounced. It’s important to remember that depression and anxiety are brain disorders – NOT character flaws.
Incorporating self-care into your daily wellness routine can help improve issues associated with depression and anxiety and can relieve stress and tension. And when we take care of ourselves, we are better equipped to take care of others.
The Mayo Clinic recommends the following self-care strategies:
Take care of your body.
- Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Stick close to your typical schedule, even if you’re staying at home.
- Participate in regular physical activity. Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood.
- Eat healthy. Choose a well-balanced diet. Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. Limit caffeine as it can aggravate stress and anxiety.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Using alcohol to try to cope can make matters worse and reduce your coping skills. Avoid taking drugs to cope, unless your doctor prescribed medications for you.
- Limit screen time. Turn off electronic devices for some time each day, including 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Relax and recharge. Set aside time for yourself. Even a few minutes of quiet time can be refreshing and help to quiet your mind and reduce anxiety.
Take care of your mind.
- Keep your regular routine. Maintaining a regular schedule is important to your mental health. In addition to sticking to a regular bedtime routine, keep consistent times for meals, bathing and getting dressed, work or study schedules, and exercise. Also set aside time for activities you enjoy.
- Limit exposure to news media. Limit news sites and social media that may expose you to rumors and false information. Also limit reading, hearing or watching other news, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations. Look for reliable sources, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Stay busy. A distraction can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Doing something positive to manage anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.
- Focus on positive thoughts. Consider starting each day by listing things you are thankful for. Maintain a sense of hope, work to accept changes as they occur and try to keep problems in perspective.
- Use your moral compass or spiritual life for support. If you draw strength from a belief system, it can bring you comfort during difficult times.
- Set priorities. Set reasonable goals each day and outline steps you can take to reach those goals. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small.
Connect with others.
- Make connections. Find time each day to make connections by email, texts, phone, or FaceTime or similar apps. If you’re working remotely from home, ask your co-workers how they’re doing and share coping tips.
- Do something for others. Find purpose in helping the people around you. For example, email, text or call to check on your friends, family members and neighbors — especially those who are elderly. If you know someone who can’t get out, ask if there’s something needed, such as groceries or a prescription picked up, for instance. But be sure to follow CDC, WHO and your government recommendations on social distancing and group meetings.
- Support a family member or friend. If a family member or friend needs to be isolated for safety reasons or gets sick and needs to be quarantined at home or in the hospital, come up with ways to stay in contact. This could be through electronic devices or the telephone or by sending a note to brighten their day.
Taking care of yourself – both mentally and physically – is one of the most selfless things you can do for yourself and for those you care about.