There has never been a more salient time to talk about mental health than now. The COVID-19 pandemic has many of us stuck indoors, and if you’re practicing the safest measures, chances are your normal routine has changed. A lot.
Whether you’re still adjusting to a new work-from-home schedule or are an essential worker and still going into work, you may be feeling more stuck, low energy, worried, restless, or anxious than normal. The World Health Organization (WHO) has taken notice of the impacts the pandemic has had on people’s mental health, stating that, “specific population groups are at particular risk of COVID-related psychological distress.” This includes front-line healthcare workers, children, parents, and people with pre-existing mental health conditions. Because of these higher risks of psychological distress, prioritizing your mental health during this time of uncertainty is instrumental to your overall well being.
Prioritizing your mental health can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task, especially if you have many responsibilities and worries on your plate. Your mental health plays a role in how you handle stress, make decisions, and relate to others, and by taking the time to take care of your brain during this time, you can improve your life in ways you didn’t think was possible before. These four steps will put you on track to building the practice of prioritizing your mental health!
1. Make sure you’re maintaining your physical health
This doesn’t just mean eating your fruits and vegetables, but keeping up-to-date with any regular check-ups and incorporating preventive care into your health maintenance. Our bodies work best when both our mental and physical health are tended to, so make sure you’re not neglecting your physical health in your journey to prioritizing your mental health.
Roughly half of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with chronic illnesses or other conditions considered preventable by the medical community. Preventive care is the first step in early detection and treatment of chronic illnesses that take the lives of millions of Americans each year. Preventive care is often covered by insurance and includes things like health screenings, diabetes and blood pressure tests, vaccines and more. Not only does preventive care ensure better physical health, but it can increase your life expectancy.
There are numerous ways to incorporate physical health maintenance into your routine. Scheduling annual checkups may be a good place to start. You can also find health and wellness providers near you, ranging from health coaches to dentists to sleep specialists, to receive specialized care for the main health issues in your life.
2. Notice and track your emotions
A big part of prioritizing your mental health is learning to manage your emotions
in a healthy way. The pandemic and quarantine may have you reacting to circumstances differently than usual. Do you feel like your emotions are wreaking havoc on your day to day life? Are you finding it hard to control them? It may be time to pause and make a plan for noticing and tracking your emotions. By recognizing what kind of emotional reactions you are having in your day-to-day life, you can begin to gain a better understanding of the root of your emotions and obtain more control of them.
Luckily, the digital age we live in today offers numerous ways for you to keep track of your emotions. Mood-tracking phone or web apps make it easy to make this a daily practice. If you prefer a more old-fashioned route, starting a mood journal can be beneficial as well. By recording your thoughts and feelings, you can begin to identify patterns, causes, triggers, and eventually, solutions to your strong emotions.
3. Build a routine of self-care
While the word self-care may bring up images in your head of bubble baths and chocolate, there’s a bit more to it than just that. Self-care encompasses a lot of things, including relaxation and indulgence, but it’s also about establishing habits that prevent and deal with illness healthily. Though many definitions exist for self-care, the International Self Care Foundation identifies numerous definitions, including the WHO’s.
“Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.’
Incorporating self-care in your routine can mean something different for everyone. For you, it may mean going for a run and spending time reading after taking your medication in the morning. For someone else, it may mean crafting and chatting with friends after work. Self-care is about you and your journey to mental and physical well being, so get creative in building your routine!
4. Talk about it
One immediate step you can take to start prioritizing your mental health is to talk about it. Many of us are worried about the way others perceive us, and though being open and vulnerable about the way you’re feeling is hard, it can be incredibly cathartic and helpful to share your emotions with someone else. Simply talking about how you are struggling mentally right now with a friend may be a way to form a stronger connection with someone who is feeling the same way. Social support is important, especially now when the world has limited physical contact with others.
There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, but the truth is, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience a mental health condition. There are quite literally millions of people struggling with their mental health in different ways right now and by having the willingness and courage to talk about your struggles, you can be well on your way to making your mental health a priority in your life. One step at a time.
Mental health has always been important, but as the world continues to change and the stress and anxieties of a pandemic remain, it’s necessary to prioritize it now. By checking off your maintained physical health, mood tracking plan, self-care routine, and time built in to talk about your mental health with others, you can complete four steps to improve your overall well being. The best time to start prioritizing your mental health is now!
This post has been sponsored by Wellistic