If you live in the DC area and feel stressed out or anxious lately, then you are not alone. Life was hectic before the epidemic, but new challenges have provided extra stress. Social distancing, virtual homeschooling, financial difficulties, telecommuting, keeping up with the news and coping with sickness and death can make the even most resilient person to succumb to the pressure. Knowing how to handle and cope with multiple stressful events is not necessarily easy. If you are struggling to make sense of it all read on for seven simple and highly effective tips on how you can take care of your mental health during these unprecedented times.
1. Take a Break from Social Media
If you have a social media page, and most people have at least two, then you are probably bombarded with political posts and opinions. While many of the people posting may be posting information you agree with, it may still be difficult to constantly be exposed to so many of these stories. You should feel free to unfollow or even block people whose posts add to your stress levels perhaps because of difference of opinion. It may be a good idea to take a break from social media altogether or simply limit how many hours a day you spend on it. Chances are that you will not be missing out on much and it will greatly benefit your well-being to take time off social media.
2. Limit News Consumption
We all want to be well-informed but there may be times when too much news consumption is simply too much. Start by making sure that you are getting your news from reliable sources. But also, be aware that too much media in general may increase stress levels. Seeing repeated images of violence that occurred may trigger a strong reaction. Maybe you are doing this to process what happened. While this is natural, it may be better to reach out to a friend to discuss or simply try to take a break and think through it on your own.
3. Practice Relaxation Techniques
There are many ways that you can try to relax your mind and body. Some people do not take naturally to them so do not be discouraged if you are struggling to make them work at first. Start with a small amount and then work on areas that help you relax. This can include listening to music, walking, or some light exercise.
If you are trying to actively de-stress, then consider muscle relaxation exercises or breathing exercises. Even a small amount of meditation can be helpful. If you are not sure of where to get started, look for instructional videos online and use these to guide your beginning efforts.
4. Practice Mindfulness
This practice involves paying attention to your feelings, thoughts, and sensations in addition to accepting them. This practice can help you to cope with stress or any difficult emotions you may be feeling. It is easy to avoid thinking about something negative, but mindfulness can help you accept and validate your current thoughts.
There are many things in life that you do without being mindful such as brushing your hair in the morning. However, being mindful means paying attention to those feelings and sensations. For example, even focusing on your breathing can be a helpful way to ground yourself and bring yourself into the current moment.
5. Get Adequate Rest, Exercise, and Nutrition
In every situation, these three areas are foundational. While focusing on good nutrition may not fix all of your problems, it's a good way to ensure that you have a better chance of overcoming your current situation. For example, getting a good night's sleep may be difficult but most people find that they have more coping mechanisms when they are well-rested. Similarly, focusing on getting a well-balanced diet may help your body to avoid any deficiencies that could make your mental health worse.
If your current schedule makes it challenging to focus on these three areas, consider small ways that you could improve each area. Even getting an hour more sleep a night can make a difference. You do not have to become a health-focused individual all the time but consider some small ways that you can help your physical health improve.
6. Consider Professional Help
Although the information provided here is a great way to get started, never overlook the benefit of a trained mental health professional on your side. An expert and licensed professional can help your mental health and could be beneficial short or even long-term. Kinara Health and Home Care Services offer a wide range of mental health services and programs to people of all ages. Their goal is to provide comprehensive behavioral health and well-being to the diverse population that is found in the District of Columbia.
Although some individuals in the DC area may be at high risk with the current pandemic, Kinara also offers tele-counseling services. You can set up an appointment from your home easily and be connected to a trained professional without having to leave your home.
7. Be Patient with the Process
Even if you start to focus on these areas, be kind to yourself throughout the process. Just like a broken bone would not heal overnight, you should not expect your stress and anxiety to recover overnight. Focus on these actionable steps and take note of small improvements. Chances are that you will have good and bad days but taking care of your mental health during this time is incredibly important. These recommendations can help to put you in a better frame of mind and encourage resilience during the current times.
Please visit the DBH website at Department of Behavioral Health for information and resources on how to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19 and maintain your mental health.