“Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the HARD conversations.” Brene Brown
Let’s have some real talk. Life is hard. Things are complicated. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. What a perfect opportunity to discuss mental and emotional well-being!
The COVID-19 pandemic is collective trauma, not unlike the events of 9/11. Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, questions can arise causing anxiety:
- How long will this last?
- How will this affect my family?
- How will this affect my community?
While these responses are normal, ruminating and/or obsessing about these issues is not helpful. It is important to focus on what is within your control. For example, good hand hygiene, limiting social media consumption, and choosing to follow CDC guidelines are within our control.
Acknowledging your feelings is important as well. The more we try to dismiss, deny, or compartmentalize our thoughts and emotions, the more persistent and intrusive they can become. Take just a moment and try to identify your feelings. What do you notice? Perhaps you notice gratitude for your health or your family’s health. Perhaps you observe fear or sadness or anger. Your emotions are valid, regardless of what they are.
Keep in mind that you are observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. You can compare your thoughts to ads on Instagram or other social media. You can either read the caption, click on the page, go to the site, and look at the products, or you can just acknowledge them and keep scrolling.
One of the primary recommendations to protect our physical health has been physical distancing. Maybe the impact of physical distancing is taking a toll on your mental wellbeing? Prolonged isolation can lead to loneliness, depression, and hopelessness.
The news is not all bad though. There are things you can do to improve your mental health.
#1 Prioritize Relationships
You can prioritize contact with friends and loved ones. Choose one person per day to contact using FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, etc.
#2 Stay Active
Spending time outdoors can improve your mood. Make time for physical activity, like going for a walk or using free workout videos on YouTube.
#3 Engage in Mindfulness or Meditation
Practice mindfulness and develop a daily meditation routine. There are a number of apps and resources that can be accessed for free. All AC Family also has access to the TAO app free of charge.
#4 Seek Professional Help
You can also talk with a mental health professional. How do you know when to seek professional help?
- You feel overly anxious or depressed or “just not yourself.”
- You find yourself engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as a significant increase in alcohol use or food consumption.
- You realize you are unable to do things you used to enjoy.
The bottom line: if you think you might need to talk with someone, do it. The vast majority of therapists have converted their practices to telehealth formats, meaning you can receive help in the comfort of your own home. The most common feedback therapists receive is that clients wish they had started sooner.
An investment in you and your wellbeing is always time well spent, so be brave. Be vulnerable and prioritize your mental and emotional health.
Our AC Family members have access to free resources for mental health and emotional wellness. Visit the HR COVID-19 Resource Page for additional help and resources to support your health and well-being during this time.
Written by Amber White, Counseling Center Coordinator. You can contact Amber White at email@example.com. If you know students that need emotional support or counseling, please refer them to our Counseling Center. Help is still available via virtual counseling sessions.