Make Mental Health a Priority in the New Year

January 15, 2021

There is no question that the pandemic has led to an increase in stress for many Americans. Unfortunately, a rise in stress levels can affect your sleeping and eating habits and worsen chronic health conditions.[1]

“Stress is a physical response to a perceived threat,” said Texas MedClinic Chief Operating Officer and practicing physician Dr. David Gude. “Your body is hard wired to release hormones in stressful situations that raise your blood pressure and heart rate, but it is not supposed to stay in that heightened state for long periods of time.”[2]

Because chronic stress can have a negative effect on the human body, it is important to know how to handle stressful situations and reduce the amount of stress in your life.

5 Tips to Improve Mental Health

  1. Prepare for a COVID-19 illness in your family.
    No one wants to contract COVID-19, but it is important you know what to do and have a plan in place should you or a family member become infected. Assure you have over-the-counter medications for pain and fever like Tylenol and Advil, a thermometer, and fluids to prevent dehydration like Gatorade or Pedialyte.  For more information on what to do should you or a family member become infected with COVID-19, you may also read our post on the subject, You have COVID-19, now what?
  2. Make your emotional health a priority.
    Take time to connect with friends and family even if you cannot be together in person. Share your thoughts and feelings on phone calls and virtual meetings. Maintaining relationships and connections allows you to express concerns in a healthy way.
  3. Limit your exposure to news.
    Take regular breaks from listening to news stories, reading social media posts and watching news programs. Seeing repeated stories of crisis and hardship can be stress inducing. Keep yourself informed but take time for activities you enjoy like taking a walk or calling a friend.[3]
  4. Get some exercise.
    Moving and being mindful of your body is a wonderful way to improve your mental health. The new year is a popular time to start exercise program. Tap into this propensity.
    Try to get 150 minutes of moderate activity each week as is recommended by the CDC. If you are looking for something with lower impact, consider meditation. Practicing meditation is known to increase calm, reduce stress, and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.[4]
  5. Get help when needed.
    If you find yourself feeling as though you are in a constant state of stress or anxiety for several days in a row, or if you are unable to function as you normally would due to stress, seek help. Call your doctor, counselor, or therapist, or inquire at your workplace about Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that may provide counseling at no charge.

You may also call or text the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990.

 

[1] CDC article, [2] Mayo Clinic article, [3] CDC article, [4] NIH article

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