We’re all living through a stressful period of change, uncertainty, and even hardship. That kind of stress can trigger mental health concerns and exacerbate existing mental and physical health conditions. That’s why one of the things I am focusing on in my practice right now is making sure that people have good coping skills necessary for self-care.
Self-care is simply the practice of taking an active role in protecting your well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
Here are some of the strategies for coping that almost anyone can use to feel better:
- Move your body. Physical exercise has a proven positive impact on physical and mental health. As some of us work from home, we’re getting a lot less physical activity in our daily lives. It’s important to be intentional about making time to move. Instead of sitting down and watching the news after work, grab your sneakers and take a walk. Or plan some movement at the beginning of the day or over the weekend. There are so many good, free exercise programs on YouTube that can help.
- Get consistent sleep and stick to a schedule. If you’re someone who has mental health concerns, getting adequate sleep can really help stabilize your mood. A consistent sleep and wake schedule is also good for overall well-being. Try to make sure that despite changes that may have happened to your schedule, you’re still going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
- Engage with supportive people. Connecting with others is so important. Instead of just texting a friend, call a friend. Set up a FaceTime or Zoom call. Because so many of us are at home, we’re not seeing people as we did before. Keeping up those social contacts is crucial to self-care.
- Learn to say no. As the world begins to open up, and we have more opportunities for engagement, we’re going to be asked to do more. You may even find yourself being asked to have late meetings or do other things that add stress right now. Being able to say no and have boundaries related to your time, goals, and priorities is part of making sure you are carving out time for self-care.
- Take a break. Self-care may look different than it did a year ago. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. If you don’t feel like pursuing your usual hobbies and interests, maybe you just need to take a chair and sit in the sunshine for 15 minutes. Find new ways to restore your body and refresh your mind.
- Consider therapy and be open to medication. Sometimes people think therapy has to be about deep-rooted childhood issues. A therapist can also help you explore what you need right now. A therapist can help you learn how to set boundaries in life so that you can make sure you’re getting what you need. It’s time to look into therapy when you’re having trouble functioning or are experiencing lasting distress. Telehealth is making the logistics around therapy easier. I also encourage people to understand that medication prescribed by a health care provider is a form of self-care. Medication can help balance your mood so that you can better care for yourself and manage daily stressors. I have worked with a number of people over the years who would have benefitted from medication, but did not believe in taking it.
Where should you start when self-care is not enough? You can talk to your primary care provider. You can access free mental health services. If you have insurance, you could also just look at the back of your insurance card. Usually, there is a number you can call for mental health care. And remember those supportive people in your life. Talking to a trusted friend or family member can help you take the first step when you don’t feel up to it yourself.
Your mental health plays an important role in your overall well-being. Find out more about how your mind works, and how to help yourself and your loved ones through emotionally challenging times at ibx.com/knowyourmind.
Original post by Monica T. Campbell, Ph.D., Independence Blue Cross