Guest Column: Five things you can do for your mental health
Guest Column by Sue Abderholden
We are in the midst of a crisis, with a lot of unknowns. We don’t know how long we have to stay at home and when we can go back to work or the kids can go back to school. First responders and health care professionals worry about catching the virus, and their families worry about the same thing. We don’t know if we’re “bending the curve” enough to be sure our hospitals are not overwhelmed. When we don’t know, can’t predict, can’t plan and are isolated — we worry.
Too much worry leads to anxiety and depression. Right now, it’s normal to have these feelings, but there are steps we can take to decrease the impact.
First, control what you can. That includes limiting your intake of the news because it becomes overwhelming. Read positive stories or novels. Take the steps needed to stay safe, including staying at home, washing your hands and cleaning frequently used surfaces. Create a routine so there is some semblance of normalcy — take a shower, eat breakfast, go to bed at a reasonable time.
Second, move every day. Whether it’s a walk around the block, doing yoga to a YouTube video or dancing to music, movement increases the endorphins in our brain and helps us feel better and less stressed.
Third, try to eat nutritious meals. In times of stress we tend to eat comfort food, which isn’t always good for us. Eating some is OK, but try to balance it out with veggies and fruit and lots of water. Cooking, especially with children at home, can be a fun activity and lead to better eating.
Fourth, connect to others. As human beings, even if an introvert, we need to connect to others. Pick up the phone, use Facetime or some other application to connect. Reach in to those who may be really struggling. Helping others makes us feel better as well.
Fifth, think the best of people. This means understanding that at times we won’t act our best in a crisis, and that children will act out. We are all experiencing anxiety about the future and, frankly, loss or grief over events, gatherings and special occasions that were canceled. Lower your expectations. Give people grace and space.
There are certainly more things people can do to make it through this difficult time, but these are five easy things to remember. Also, NAMI Minnesota has online support groups and classes, along with an extensive list of resources that can help people through this time. We know it’s hard but we know that we can get through this together.
Sue Abderholden is executive director of NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lives of children and adults with mental illnesses and their families through its programs of education, support and advocacy. For more information go to namimn.org or call 651-645-2948.