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By Kris Fitzgerald LMHC MA MBA
Contributing Writer 

Maintaining Positive Mental Health During A Pandemic

 

Last updated 4/29/2021 at 2:39pm

Think back to January 2020, what were your top concerns upon leaving home to start your day?

I can tell you my top two: Did I unplug the iron and did I close the garage.

January 2021, those concerns look more like: Do I have my mask, and do I have enough hand sanitizer? The mental health crisis in America we are now faced with has staggering numbers showing 1 out of every 4 adults and 1 out of every 5 adolescents suffer with a diagnosable mental health illness. Six out of every 10 of those adults never receive any treatment or medication for mental health care - which is one of the contributing factors to the rate of 40,000 suicides in America each year.

Sadly, that number has increased over this past year as we have endured the COVID-19 pandemic. Great emphasis was placed on quarantining and physical health while little attention was placed on the importance of mental health care during and post the quarantine.

Numerous Americans make a yearly appointment to see their primary care physician, yet the most vital organ in the human body, that cannot be transplanted (yet) often goes unchecked.

Individuals often remain silent and walk alone through their journey because their scars are unseen. The need to increase and maintain positive mental health during this time is of great importance. As noted by the statistic I mentioned, increasing and maintaining positive mental health should be on everyone's to do list. Some effective ways to increase positive mental health include the following:

i. I believe starting each morning off in a positive manner sets the tone for the rest of the day. This can be incorporating listening to your favorite song or favorite motivational speaker, meditation, praying, yoga, creating a gratitude list, and/or positive affirmations speaking directly to yourself (as long as you do not answer, you are good).

ii. Positive self-talk is important: we spend most of the day with ourselves- so be kind to you. Do not be hard on yourself, we are all learning and going through this together.

iii. Connections: Connect with family and friends. Social distancing put a halt on a number of things we could do, and this was one of the most challenging, however we are very creative people. Use the internet to stay connected through facetime and video chat. I often encourage some individuals to write letters. It was something special about receiving a letter in the mail and knowing the individual took time out of their day to write a letter and mail it.

iv. Be active: physical exercise increases endorphins and assists in individuals feeling better, improving self-esteem, and energy levels. This can include yoga, chakra, walking, biking on some of those lovely new Lake Wales trails.

v. Eat well balanced meals: limit the number of fast-food trips, and high saturated fats in your diet.

vi. Limit time spent listening to news that is upsetting, set time limits on how much you are on social media, avoid isolating completely (human connections are important)

vii. Practice good sleep hygiene: adequate sleep can dramatically assist in improving overall mood.

viii. Environment: your physical environment is incredibly important. When the space around you is out of order it can create a sense of chaos within. Sometimes the need to declutter is of utmost importance. I have seen this increase anxiety levels in students. It is difficult to focus when the space around you is in chaos.

ix. Incorporate the things you enjoy and love into your everyday life as much as possible.

x. Limit the use of alcohol: it is a downer and will only help ease your mood in the moment.

xi. Talk with a trusted friend/pastor/priest/seek counseling.

xii. Try something new. Learn a new hobby, volunteer, care for a pet and practice self-care!

Mental Health is just as important as physical health and those that battle with any form of illness need to know you are not alone and it truly is ok to not be ok.

I believe some of the most important ways to maintain positive mental health during the pandemic is to embrace the new normal, do not be hard on yourself (because I do not know a lot of 100+ year old people, which means this is the majority of our 1st pandemic), and remember to BREATHE.

Some apps to try for relaxation:

APPS:

● Calm

● Headspace

● Happier

● Mindfulness app

● Panic relief

Kris Fitzgerald can be reached at: [email protected],

Fitzgerald Counseling Services will reopen and plan to take new clients on May 10 via telehealth (zoom health)

 

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