While the pandemic may be past its peak, many are still feeling the reverberations of two years of isolation, stress and hardship. Many Montanans are struggling with mental health challenges that were brought on or worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. During Mental Health Awareness Month this year, these challenges are top of mind.
This year’s focus for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is “Together for Mental Health.” Addressing mental health issues doesn’t happen alone, which is why in Montana, trained healthcare professionals at Community Health Partners clinics are here to offer help and advice if you’re worried about your mental health.
Sometimes you can find relief with other coping mechanisms too. If you find yourself feeling down, stressed, anxious, or other negative mental health effects during the pandemic, here are a few tools to help you cope.
Your support network is there for you in hard times. And in the midst of the pandemic, you can find togetherness even without physical contact. Call, text, or video chat to stay connected with your loved ones.
Staying connected to current events is important, but not at the expense of your mental health. Recognize that it’s okay to take a step away from the news, especially when you’re stuck in negative thought patterns.
When you get caught in negative thought patterns or anxiety that you can’t shake, it helps to share those fears with others. That might be a trusted friend or family member, or you might want to reach out to a mental health professional. Your primary care provider at CHP can help connect you to a therapist or counselor if you don’t already have one.
Exercise raises your endorphin levels, leading to a scientifically proven mood boost for many. You don’t have to lift heavy weights or run a marathon. Incorporating gentle movement into your life, like taking a walk or doing some stretching, can improve your mental health.
Most adults need 7 or more hours of sleep each night on a regular schedule to feel their best. Stress and a busy life can make it tough to get enough sleep, but prioritizing this can help you find your way to a better mental state.
If you are struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep, relaxation exercises like meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness or prayer can help you focus on the moment and keep your thoughts from spiraling. You can find free meditation apps and podcasts to help you relax.
This one just isn’t possible for everyone. But if you’re finding that the pandemic is impacting your mental health, you might want to look into taking a little time off. That might mean taking a day of sick leave, or even just scheduling a long weekend to give yourself time to reset.
Being creative, whether that means making music, sewing, knitting, woodworking or cooking, can help your mental health. Find an outlet that you enjoy, and try to incorporate that into your day-to-day.
If your personal situation allows, get outside to breathe in some fresh air. You don’t need to climb a mountain or go for a long bike ride, though that can be soothing for many. Even going to your neighborhood park to sit on a bench in the sun can give you a big boost.
It can be hard to feel good mentally when you don’t feel good physically. Try to make a meal or two filled with veggies and protein, getting some extra vitamins in with fruits and leafy greens. A hearty and healthy meal can go a long way to improving your mental health.
When the solutions above aren’t working, there are other places to turn for immediate help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) national helpline offers phone counseling services before, during, and after disasters, like the pandemic. You can reach them at 1–800–662–HELP (1–800–662–4357).
If you or someone you know is at risk of harming themself or others, or you feel overwhelmed by sadness, anxiety, or depression call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–TALK (1–800–273–8255).
If the matter isn’t urgent, but you’re ready to get help, contact a behavioral health specialist at your neighborhood CHP clinic. Reach out to make an appointment or speak with a provider.