Recognizing Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month and there couldn’t be a more important time to raise awareness for a topic that affects so many in different ways. We are in the middle of a health pandemic that continues to press on and as the new coronavirus continues to sicken people around the world and claim the lives of family, friends and neighbors, evidence shows that the extended quarantines could be negatively affecting our mental wellbeing.

The outbreak of the disease is stressful, not only causing fear of contracting the virus, but the pandemic has caused job loss (financial strain), the need for social distancing (loneliness) and family frustrations (two-and-a-half months with the same people can be difficult). A recent Washington Post headline declared that “Coronavirus is harming the mental health of tens of millions of people in the U.S., new poll finds” and reports from emergency responders and social workers indicate that abuse in the home – both domestic and child – are on the rise.

So, how are you holding up? How about your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors? Although we are to remain distanced from one another, there has never been a time when it has been more critical to better connect with others.

Here are a few ways you can check in with yourself to ensure we all come out of this not only physically, but mentally healthy and thriving.

Run a daily scan each day of how you’re feeling. Be honest with your emotions and feelings and, rather than run away from them, run toward them to better understand the origination of your current mental health.

Recognize the signs of anxiety and depression. Are you having trouble sleeping through the night? Are you withdrawing from usual conversations with others? Are you uninterested in engaging in activities you once loved? Are you experiencing panic attacks?

Use technology and social distancing to stay connected. Although we cannot connect physically with others, we can connect from a distance through computers and phones and even from six or more feet away. If you are desperate to see someone you miss, go for a drive and say “hello” from a safe distance. Sometimes it just takes a friendly, familiar smile to refill the soul.

Take some time to write down your fears, which can work a lot like talking to a trusted friend. Sometimes just getting something down on paper is enough to move past it.

Communicate your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one on a regular basis. Sharing regularly not only allows you some time to vocalize how you are feeling, but it opens up an opportunity to gain some insight, inspiration and encouraging words. Doing so also allows you to keep a close eye on the warning signs that would indicate a more serious mental illness.

Exercise does wonders for the body and brain since it allows us to shed off excess adrenaline that makes us feel amped up, while releasing positive chemicals that make us feel happy and safe.