Mental Health Month 2020: Tools to ThrivePat Fontana
May is Mental Health Month. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the emphasis on mental health is critically important. Stress and anxiety are common during these challenging times, for most people across the country and across the world. Even in normal times, mental health is a major concern as one in five people will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. During Mental Health Month 2020, Mental Health America has developed Tools to Thrive to help you understand more about mental health and to learn some valuable tips for your own success.
Key Mental Health Messages
Mental Health America stresses that mental health is essential to everyone’s health and well-being and that mental illnesses are common and treatable. Their key messaging at this time hinges on this: there are practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase resiliency regardless of the situations they are dealing with. Taking these small steps can help you to improve your mental health and support others all year round.
First, set aside time to consider your own experiences and needs. One way to check in on yourself is to take a mental health screen at mhascreening.org. It’s a quick, free, and private way for someone to assess their mental health and recognize signs of mental health problems. Participate in these screenings and make other changes throughout your life to promote physical health, which can significantly impact your mental health. Living a healthy lifestyle and incorporating these tools to thrive may not be easy, but can be achieved by gradually making small changes and building on those successes.
If you’re not the person with a diagnosed mental illness, you can still participate in Mental Health Month 2020! Everyone can be supportive of friends, family, and co-workers who are struggling with life’s challenges or their mental health.
Finally, it’s important to recognize your emotions and own your feelings, work to find the positive even when facing adversity or loss, reach out and try to connect with others, remove those people in your life who are bringing you down, and create healthy routines to take care of yourself. Recognizing your feelings, finding the routines that lift you up, removing toxic influences and connecting with others can all help you on your path to recovery as you develop your own mental health Tools to Thrive.
Tips for Success – Owning Your Feelings
During particularly stressful situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, taking the time to really identify what you’re feeling can help you to better cope. Tools to Thrive during this challenging time include:
Allow yourself to feel. Sometimes there are societal pressures that encourage people to shut down their emotions, often expressed through statements like, “Big girls don’t cry,” or “Man up.” These outdated ideas are harmful, not helpful. Everyone has emotions–they are part of the human experience–and you have every right to feel them.
Don’t ignore how you’re feeling. Most of us have heard the term “bottling up your feelings” before. When we try to push feelings aside without addressing them, they build strength and make us more likely to “explode” at some point in the future. It may not always be appropriate to process your emotions at the very moment you are feeling them, but try to do so as soon as you can.
Talk it out. Find someone you trust that you can talk to about how you’re feeling. You may find that people are eager to share about similar experiences they’ve had or times that they have felt the way that you are feeling. This can be helpful, but if you’re really only interested in having someone listen, it’s okay to tell them that.
Build your emotional vocabulary. When asked about our feelings, most people will usually use words like bad, sad, mad, good, or fine. But at the root of “good, bad, sad, mad, or fine” are many words that better describe how we feel. Try building your emotional vocabulary by writing down as many “feeling” words as you can think of and think of a time that you felt that way.
Try journaling. Each night, write down at least three feelings you had over the course of the day and what caused them. It doesn’t need to be a “Dear Diary” kind of thing. Just a few sentences or bullet points to help you practice being comfortable with identifying and expressing your emotions.
Consider the strength of your feelings. By thinking about how intense your emotions are, you may realize that what you thought you were feeling at first could better be described by another word. For instance, sometimes a person might say they are stressed when what they are really experiencing is something less severe like annoyance, alternatively anger might really be a stronger, deeper feeling like betrayal.
Realize What You Can Control
During COVID-19, you may feel that you have little control over what is happening to you and around you. You do have the tools to thrive! There are many aspects of your life that you can control.
Your mind and body: Keep a healthy diet. Exercise at home. Get enough sleep. Do not smoke or drink alcohol. Take care of your mental health. Maintain self-care and personal hygiene.
Your immediate environment: Your house, your bedroom, your closet, your kitchen – now is the time to clean and get organized. Make responsible choices about when to leave the house and only go out if necessary. Limit the number of people you come into contact with. Work from home if you are able to.
What you consume: Don’t overdo your news and information intake. Get your information from reliable sources like the CDC or WHO. Watch TV, movies, and videos that make you feel good.
How you protect yourself: Regularly wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Avoid greeting people by shaking hands, kissing or hugging. Keep 6 feet of distance between you and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
How you protect others: Stay home if you are sick aside from getting medical care. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Contact R&A Therapeutic Partners for Help During COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that you may be struggling with your new reality, feeling increased anxiety, depression, loneliness, and despair. At R&A Therapeutic Partners, we urge you to contact us for help with your increased symptoms of mental illness that can cause you to cope with these new challenges sometimes in ways that are not healthy and can even be self-destructive. We continue to provide the therapy services you need during this challenging time, through confidential and secure telehealth. Contact the Miami therapeutic consultants Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno to find out the services R&A Therapeutic Partners offers. Call us at 786-452-7352 to schedule your appointment.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.