In the past few months, COVID-19 has opened a dialogue about physical and mental health in the United States. We learned early on that people with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications. Similarly, those with pre-existing mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, may worsen due to COVID-19 stressors. Several of Better Health Advisors’ clients are experiencing pandemic-related mental health challenges. For instance, someone who already had depression is now struggling to cope with the fear and uncertainty that surrounds COVID-19.
An Existing Mental Health Crisis
Before COVID-19, the U.S. was already experiencing a mental health crisis. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 1 in 5 Americans reported a mental illness in the past year. Experts at McLean Hospital, a leading psychiatric hospital, cite stress, an unhealthy diet, and lack of sleep as contributing factors. Now COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem and many Americans need appropriate mental health care more than ever, but many aren’t sure where to find it.
Impact of COVID-19
The pandemic presents many challenges to mental health such as feelings of social isolation and uncertainty about the future. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 45% of American adults report the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. As we continue to adapt to this new normal, that number is likely to increase. Some people may find it harder to cope than others, but we are all in this together. Our mental health affects our immune system. During this crisisBHA recommends paying extra attention to your own mental health needs, as well as those of your loved ones.
Leading mental health professionals emphasize the following tips for managing mental health during and beyond the pandemic:
Practical Tips for Mental Health
- Connect with other people. This is an opportunity to build stronger connections to those near and far. Human connection is vital for wellness, especially during uncertain, anxiety-provoking times.
- Conduct a self-assessment. To manage stress, identify your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors (“TEB”). Once you recognize your internal dialogue, find healthy coping mechanisms.
- Identify the problem. This is a critical first step. For example, if you are feeling anxious because you are upset about not going to the health club, find a similar activity to begin to relieve your anxiety.
- Be proactive. Seek help early on, rather than waiting for a crisis to happen. Know what to do if you start to experience mental health issues.
- Work with an expert. If you don’t already work with a mental health professional, Thoughtfully select the type of mental health professional that would best support you. Not sure where to start? BHA can help.
- Be patient with yourself. Some people may have trouble finding the right resources and taking action. Approach it in small, concrete steps.
- Slow down. Practice gratitude and mindfulness through calming activities, such as self-reflection, stretches, and deep breathing exercises.
- Support other people. Regularly check-in with relatives, friends, and co-workers to see how they are coping.
At BHA, we recognize that mental health is an important component of your overall health plan. Even when the pandemic is over, there will inevitably be other disruptions in our lives. The best way to handle them is to have a plan in place. Managing your mental health is a lifelong endeavor—and it will always be worth the effort.