May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which marks the time of year to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues, and more importantly, to reduce the stigma that surrounds it. Mental health continues to be an area of our society that still needs work. As we emerge from the physical cocoon imposed on us due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we find that not only have we lost family and friends, but many us have suffered emotional and psychological distress as well.
Mental Health America released its annual State of Mental Health in America Report. The results are troubling. 19% or 47.1 million people in the United States are living with a mental health condition. That number is up 1.5 million over last year’s report. Undoubtedly, the loneliness and isolation that so many experienced during the pandemic played a part in that surge, and now we are left having to address another crisis in the country. (2021 State of Mental Health in America, 2020)
For more than a year now, people have been forced to navigate what we refer to as the “new normal.” This reality consists of limited social interaction, tensions among families in lockdown together and now with the new variants emerging, fear of illness--again. Many people are still out of work. Many are working remotely while tackling the various complications that home life entails. Companies are treading lightly attempting to keep employees both productive and safe. In truth, the workplace landscape may be forever changed. (Abbot, 2021)
So, what steps can we take today to heal? How do we return to feeling like ourselves once again? We have four suggestions…a little something we like to call LEAP. The first recommendation should come as no surprise—Limit the news. COVID-19 news still permeates the airwaves which only fuels stress, anxiety, and depression. Second: Exercise. Moving our bodies whether it be walking, dancing in your bedroom, or working out is essential for relieving stress. Third: Acquaint yourself with the technology if you haven’t already. Zoom with friends that you miss seeing or Facetime on your phone. You may find that it’s almost as good as being in the room with them. Finally, Play. Schedule one day or evening each week to do something you love (watch movies, read a good book or play video games). Make a date for yourself or with family or friends. Maintain that scheduled break for yourself. (Murphy, n.d.)
Taking these small measures may help us feel like we have a handle on our lives once again. That’s the goal. So much is out of our control right now leaving us yearning for practical methods to stabilize and strengthen. Our challenge for May is to take the LEAP. Follow through with all four steps for the entire month and measure how you feel at the beginning of May and again on Memorial Day. Additionally, employees often forget that many organizations offer EAPs or Employee Assistance Programs which are likely to offer services to assist individuals dealing with depression, anxiety, isolation, and financial concerns. Take the opportunity to find out what help is available through your benefits. Mental health is vital to our overall well-being. We want to continue taking steps to manage it no matter what challenges we face.
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2021 State of Mental Health in America. (2020, 10 20). Retrieved from mhanational.org: https://www.mhanational.org/research-reports/2021-state-mental-health-america
Abbot, A. (2021, February 3). Covid's Mental-heatlh toll: how scientists are tracking a surge in depression. Retrieved from nature.com: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00175-z
Murphy, K. (n.d.). The Effects a Pandemic Can Have on Your Mental Health. Retrieved from mindsetsd.com: https://www.mindsetsd.com/blog/the-affects-a-pandemic-can-have-on-your-mental-health