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Preserving your MH during a pandemic

There has a been a cultural shift that has taken place. "Rona," Covid-19 for the smart people, or CORONAVIRUS!! Cardi B voice has affected all of our lives. As a result, there has been a dramatic change in the way we work, shop, attend school, enjoy amenities and even travel. Despite this dramatic curve, employers, our communities and those we care for expect us to carry on. How do we carry on and help stabilize our mental health when we are surrounded by the unknown? Easy steps that we can take to prepare us for preserving our mental health.

1. Disconnect. There is a fine line between knowing current events and being overloaded with information. Studies have shown that the blue light screens have led to headaches and eye strain. There are companies who create apps and other systems that limit and restrict screen time. Imagine paying someone, who turns the phone, tablet, or television off. There is a reason why anxious and depression symptoms have increased during this influx of technology. Solution is simple, disconnect. Give your eyes and body a break. Turn it off, use an app if it helps or go old school and just turn it off.

2. Breathe. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is intentional diaphragmatic breathing. Allowing your brain to receive extra oxygen and slowing your breathing to receive the benefits of slowing the heartrate. When your heart rate slows, it provides oxygen to the brain and removes anxiety symptoms. The quickest way to reset is to take deep breaths. It's something that's free and you can receive the benefits wherever you are. Practice with me, breathe in and hold for a three count, HOLD, and push out while pushing your stomach out.

3. Focus on what you can control. Your thoughts your attitude your perspective on. Anxiety is a concern for things that have not happened, it shows up as stress, rapid heartbeats, upset stomach and other severe symptoms. The funny thing about anxiety, is that it has no helpful or useful need. Anxiety is often a distraction, doubtful, negative voice in someone's head. This pandemic has taught us, that we are not in control of any external factors, the things we CAN control our thoughts, emotions and responses. If we learn that we are in charge of our peace, it would not be so easy for others to take it from us. The reality is we give it away by our perspective and opinions on situations and choosing to have a negative outlook.

4. Identify your self-care love language. The 5 Love Languages is a phenomenon that has caught on that allows people in relationships to express to their partners how they like to receive love and also help them to express love in the manner their partner can comprehend as love. Self-care love language centers on the way one can experience meaningful self-care for one’s self. For example, if quality time is my love language, I can intentionally plan and carve out time where I can have alone time doing something that I enjoy, such as watching my favorite movie. If words of affirmation are your love language, you can keep a gratitude journal to read at the end of the day or whenever you have your private time.

5. Grieve your losses. This last one is probably the hardest step in preserving your mental health. Grieving the events, situations, jobs, vacations, relationships etc. that were lost due to this pandemic. Allow yourself to grieve the special moments or memories lost based on crisis. There is so much to name, senior years in school, family vacations, job opportunities, happy hours, movie nights...... All gone. If it takes you crying, journaling or venting, get it out. Allow your heart to break because it's not your fault and no one could predict these conditions. After you cry, sob or share your heartbreak, wipe your tears, take a deep breath, and keep on moving forward. As always if you are overwhelmed and need help dealing with your new reality, do not hesitate to seek professional counseling help.

D. Wrencher, LMHC

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