By: Jennifer Craig, ReDiscover

We are living in unprecedented times. Within the last few months the world as we know it has changed and we continue to face many unknowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently the YouGov COVID-19 Tracker reported levels of depression in the US increased by 32% during the month of April. With conditions and updates on the severity of the pandemic changing almost daily, there can be a sense of “losing control” which contributes to greater stress and anxiety. Additionally, the emotional fatigue associated with making decisions about how to best stay safe in a pandemic can take its toll on our overall health.

Even before the pandemic, 1 in 4 Americans were living with a diagnosable mental illness with depression and anxiety being the most common mental health conditions in the US. While treatment is effective in over 80% of mental health cases, on average it takes 8-10 years for individuals to seek help. The impact of this delayed help is prolonged suffering. In the US 217 million workdays are lost due to depression each year and mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability between the ages of 15-44. For the last three years, American life expectancy has declined with high mortality rates largely impacted by suicide and drug overdoses. We were already facing a public health crisis and now experts are predicting increased deaths of despair attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased social isolation, unemployment, depression and anxiety.


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It is time for us to realize that taking care of our mental health needs to be a priority and as normal as getting an annual physical or regular dental cleanings. In the midst of a pandemic, it is even more urgent to take care of our mental health. The continuous onslaught of worry and insecurity related to losing a job or fear of losing one, struggling to pay bills and concern about the health and safety of loved ones is leading to greater stress and mental health issues than before.

What can we do? The good news is self-care and structure can make a difference in our mental health. While your typical self-care routine may have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are ways to stay healthy and remain connected.

Follow regular schedules for waking up, dressing, eating, exercising, working, entertainment and going to sleep.

Exercise increases energy levels, improves happiness and doesn’t have to take place in a gym. Take a virtual workout class at home or spend some time outdoors waling or biking.

Sleep plays a major role in our overall health, improving emotional regulation and management of anxiety. It’s important to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep, especially during times of stress. For more restful sleep try to limit your exposure to the news and social media a few hours before bed.

Healthy eating is essential. The foods we chose to nourish our bodies and the way we enjoy them can have a tremendous impact on our mental and physical health. Be purposeful when restocking groceries and choose foods that boost your mood such as oatmeal, nuts, and even dark chocolate.
Avoid overdoing it on sugar, caffeine or alcohol – they are a quick fix which can increase stress in the long term.

Learn and explore. Research shows people engaged in learning feel more confidence, hope and purpose. Keep your mind active by taking virtual tours of museums, reading, trying new recipes or solving puzzles. Consider learning a new skill like painting, playing guitar or learning a new language. Get outside! Sunlight can improve your mood.

Have fun. Play games with your family or online with friends. Start a new hobby. Set aside time to have fun – positive emotions can help build a buffer against stress.

Practice mindfulness. The practice of pausing, breathing and just “being” is essential to our well-being and mental health because it helps us reduce stress, worry less and it enhances feelings of resiliency.

Stay connected. Our connections with others help us cope with the ups and downs in life. Some ways we can stay connected include:
Use technology to stay in touch if available, especially video contact. Seeing someone’s facial expressions can help increase connection.

Check in with your friends, family, and neighbors regularly, using texts, phone calls, emails and other virtual tools. Wherever you can, help people in your life who may be more vulnerable (e.g. those with no access to the internet or need help grocery shopping). Connect with the people in your household. Use this time to improve your existing relationships! Show kindness to others in your community. This is very stressful for many people, especially those who are vulnerable and families who may be struggling already with poverty or other family stressors. It is also very stressful for health care workers and their families. Helping others increases your sense of purpose and value, improving your own well-being. It’s not just family and friends who require support, but others in your community.

Talk about your feelings and ask for help. Bottling up your feelings and assuming they will go away can make things worse in the long run. Sometimes when we need help the most is when it’s hardest to ask for it but asking for help is the first step to feeling better. There are many people who can help – friends, family, doctors and counselors.

For help in our area, call the Missouri Access Crisis Intervention line at 888-279-8188. This toll-free number is available 24/7 and all calls are confidential.


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By: Jennifer Craig, ReDiscover
We are living in unprecedented times. Within the last few months the world as we know it has changed and we continue to face many unknowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently the YouGov COVID-19 Tracker reported levels of depression in the US increased by 32% during the month of April. With conditions and updates on the severity of the pandemic changing almost daily, there can be a sense of “losing control” which contributes to greater stress and anxiety. Additionally, the emotional fatigue associated with making decisions about how to best stay safe in a pandemic can take its toll on our overall health.
Even before the pandemic, 1 in 4 Americans were living with a diagnosable mental illness with depression and anxiety being the most common mental health conditions in the US. While treatment is effective in over 80% of mental health cases, on average it takes 8-10 years for individuals to seek help. The impact of this delayed help is prolonged suffering. In the US 217 million workdays are lost due to depression each year and mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability between the ages of 15-44. For the last three years, American life expectancy has declined with high mortality rates largely impacted by suicide and drug overdoses. We were already facing a public health crisis and now experts are predicting increased deaths of despair attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased social isolation, unemployment, depression and anxiety.

Advertisement

It is time for us to realize that taking care of our mental health needs to be a priority and as normal as getting an annual physical or regular dental cleanings. In the midst of a pandemic, it is even more urgent to take care of our mental health. The continuous onslaught of worry and insecurity related to losing a job or fear of losing one, struggling to pay bills and concern about the health and safety of loved ones is leading to greater stress and mental health issues than before.
What can we do? The good news is self-care and structure can make a difference in our mental health. While your typical self-care routine may have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are ways to stay healthy and remain connected.
Follow regular schedules for waking up, dressing, eating, exercising, working, entertainment and going to sleep.
Exercise increases energy levels, improves happiness and doesn’t have to take place in a gym. Take a virtual workout class at home or spend some time outdoors waling or biking.
Sleep plays a major role in our overall health, improving emotional regulation and management of anxiety. It’s important to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep, especially during times of stress. For more restful sleep try to limit your exposure to the news and social media a few hours before bed.
Healthy eating is essential. The foods we chose to nourish our bodies and the way we enjoy them can have a tremendous impact on our mental and physical health. Be purposeful when restocking groceries and choose foods that boost your mood such as oatmeal, nuts, and even dark chocolate.
Avoid overdoing it on sugar, caffeine or alcohol – they are a quick fix which can increase stress in the long term.
Learn and explore. Research shows people engaged in learning feel more confidence, hope and purpose. Keep your mind active by taking virtual tours of museums, reading, trying new recipes or solving puzzles. Consider learning a new skill like painting, playing guitar or learning a new language. Get outside! Sunlight can improve your mood.
Have fun. Play games with your family or online with friends. Start a new hobby. Set aside time to have fun – positive emotions can help build a buffer against stress.
Practice mindfulness. The practice of pausing, breathing and just “being” is essential to our well-being and mental health because it helps us reduce stress, worry less and it enhances feelings of resiliency.
Stay connected. Our connections with others help us cope with the ups and downs in life. Some ways we can stay connected include:
Use technology to stay in touch if available, especially video contact. Seeing someone’s facial expressions can help increase connection.
Check in with your friends, family, and neighbors regularly, using texts, phone calls, emails and other virtual tools. Wherever you can, help people in your life who may be more vulnerable (e.g. those with no access to the internet or need help grocery shopping). Connect with the people in your household. Use this time to improve your existing relationships! Show kindness to others in your community. This is very stressful for many people, especially those who are vulnerable and families who may be struggling already with poverty or other family stressors. It is also very stressful for health care workers and their families. Helping others increases your sense of purpose and value, improving your own well-being. It’s not just family and friends who require support, but others in your community.
Talk about your feelings and ask for help. Bottling up your feelings and assuming they will go away can make things worse in the long run. Sometimes when we need help the most is when it’s hardest to ask for it but asking for help is the first step to feeling better. There are many people who can help – friends, family, doctors and counselors.
For help in our area, call the Missouri Access Crisis Intervention line at 888-279-8188. This toll-free number is available 24/7 and all calls are confidential.

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