What is mental health? If you have read the third word with a red flag, will it always be the case? Does this affect everyone, including you? Why do you think mental health is important? How can you take care of it?
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to her or his community.” They also state it on their website that “Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living, and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection, and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities, and societies throughout the world.”
In this time of COVID 19 pandemic, where governments restrict outdoor activities and physical contacts, many people are feeling unsecured and uncertain. You might be one of them. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, symptoms of mental illness are anxiety, loneliness, and traumatic stress.
Looking after your mental health can be your best weapon for your survival. Here are the effective ways to take care of it by the Psychological Association of the Philippines:
1. Focus on what you can control - Concentrate on the positives (such as your blessings) and things you can handle (personal reaction, time, energy, finances, food choices, and consumption). List down all your priorities and to-dos in a simple piece of paper and put it in a conspicuous place. This will make you focus when your mind worries about anything and you can get back to your list anytime.
2. Take care of your physical health to prevent the spread of the disease: wash your hands frequently; avoid crowded places; clean and disinfect frequently; practice social distancing, among others. - Wear your face masks when you’re outside and bring only necessary items to lessen the chances of virus-carrying.
3. Limit your social media use. Heavy consumption of news and social media may take a psychological toll. - Reduce screen times once to twice a day added by National Alliance on Mental Health. You must read only the latest news from credible sources.
4. Adopt a routine. Having a routine at home or work will give you a better sense of purpose and order to your day. Treat every routine consistently to achieve any goals you have either brief term or long term. Finish each task daily, one step at a time. Don’t forget to reward yourself for each set of tasks accomplished. It could be eating a piece of your favorite chocolate, drinking your favorite tea, or listening to upbeat music.
5. Maintain good health. Eat nutritious food and stay hydrated. Get at least six hours of sleep. Don’t let bad thoughts weaken you, instead divert your mind and body to do healthy stuff. Stay tranquil by trying mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, stretching, and meditating for at least 10 minutes each. Your mind will have positive thoughts if you open yourself to positive things like reading inspirational books, listening to empowering podcasts, or talking to a family member.
According to Medical News Today “Eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and lean protein can be helpful. Eating potassium-rich foods, such as pumpkin seeds or bananas, may help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.” These foods will help you calm your mood.
6. Take time to do things you enjoy. Indulge yourself. Watch your favorite show, take up hobbies, dance, pray, yoga, or do other things that make you feel good. Rekindle with the indoor hobbies that you enjoy doing before but somehow forgotten. Re-read your favorite novel. See a movie you like online. Sing-a-long to karaoke. Have a long and relaxing bubble bath. Cook new and foreign dishes. Most importantly, reach out to God through minutes of prayer every day. Trusting God’s grace will give you a sense of security and peace.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. - Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV
7. Practice empathy and compassion. Find ways to contribute or assist those in need of support during this crisis. Stop complaining to the government and start thinking about how you can help others because you have something to share. Check on your neighbors or local community and see if you can help them, especially on their stock of food. Donate extra money online to organizations that distribute food supplies and other essential items to the less fortunate.
8. Stay connected. Reach out to your family and check on them. Reach out to a trusted friend or seek additional support from mental health/ counseling services. Keep your communication open to the people you love the most - your family and your trusted friends. Find out if they need your emotional support or seek their advice if you need one. You can chat with them online, have video calls, or even the traditional phone calls and text messages.
If any feelings of anxiety, depression, and distress persist, inquire to any mental health providers and their online services.
Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. - American Psychological Association
Additionally, you can seize this as an opportunity to do things you’ve never done. For example, take an online class about playing a musical instrument you’ve been wanting to learn but haven’t had time. On the other hand, take a big leap of faith and commitment to stop doing things that harm you. Like drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes.
Keeping well mental health is a challenge, but you’ll reap the rewards soon if you keep trying. You are not alone in this battle. As my favorite band, Hale sings, “There will always be a blue sky, blue sky waiting tomorrow full of hope.” Now go start taking care of your mental health!