As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we do so during unprecedented and stressful times. For many people jobs and caregiving are happening at the same time, and so they feel they are “on the job” 24/7 and are stuck in an unending cycle of stress. At the same time there are many who are feeling stress because they have lost their jobs, causing sudden financial insecurity. Add to that the fact that we are now socially isolated from family members and loved ones, which makes dealing with these extremely stressful situations very difficult.
You can educate your community about four steps they can take to help them manage stress in these uncertain times.
Recognize How Your Stress Affects You
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the COVID-19 pandemic can cause strong feelings of stress for adults and children alike, including:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic physical health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
If you’re experiencing any of these, you should seek to manage your symptoms by finding ways to cope and relieve stress, while still maintaining physical distancing.
Manage What You Can; Release What You Can’t
Once you acknowledge you are feeling stress, understanding the issue can help you to problem solve a solution. Your stress can motivate you to manage what you can. Taking action to combat a part of the what’s bothering you can help to reduce your symptoms.
As information on COVID-19 continues to develop, it is important to stay updated with information from reputable sources such as the World Health Organization’s prevention guide and myth-busting list.
Instead of adding to your stress by trying to control elements beyond your grasp, try to follow an expert guide to manage what you can and let go of the temptation to try to control what you cannot.
Know Your Limits
If watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 causes you to feel stressed and anxious, seek information only from trusted sources, so that you can take precautions to protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day, limiting access to once or twice a day. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about the pandemic can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts, not rumors and misinformation. Gather information at regular intervals from CDC and WHO websites as well as your local government and health authorities, so you are able to distinguish facts from rumors. Facts can help to minimize fears.
Put Your Own Mask on First
Just like the proverbial airplane warning about oxygen masks, it is important to take care of yourself first so you have the capacity to care for your family and others, to do your job, and take care of routine chores.
When it comes to self-care, the more strategies you can rely on to help yourself, the better. The coping skills that work for you may vary depending on the situation you are in, so having plenty of options allows you to be better equipped to handle your stress.
Here are some good ways to practice self-care and reduce stress:
- Practice mindful meditation
- Keep a gratitude list
- Structure your day
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Avoid substance abuse
- Set and practice a regular sleep schedule
- Find a way to help others
What Can Healthcare Marketers Do?
Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month in May has never been more important than this year—2020. It is a good time to remind the people in your community to stay grounded by practicing and adopting good mental health habits. This will go a long way to help them and their families weather the uncertainty that surrounds us right now. It is also a good time to publish information about how to reach out to your health system to get help from mental health professionals. After all, we are all in this together!