The first time a parent hears their young child say an unpleasant word, their reaction is usually: “Where did you learn that?” The truth is, many times the child will point at the dad or mom. Oops!
Yes, our little ones are sponges that mimic what we say and do. Our positive and negative role modeling can stay with kids for a lifetime. With all the anxiety, loneliness and depression in today’s world, how to talk to your children about mental health can be tricky and revealing.
When you’re ‘down and out’, or ‘feeling small’, will self-care act like a bridge over troubled waters? Forgive our music comparison, but exactly what part does self-care play in helping us overcome the stresses in life? Some say it’s a cure-all, while others are less enthusiastic about how much help it actually provides. The real question should be how to effectively use self-care for improved mental health.
The Covid-19 virus outbreak is dramatically changing our everyday lives and people are still trying to navigate this new and evolving situation. Practicing social distancing can make socializing difficult and can become lonely BUT, you are not alone. We can still come together, in new and creative ways. Read below for some ideas on how to maintain your social connections:
Call, Text or Write
Scroll through your contact list in your phone and call someone you haven’t talked to in a while to see how they’re doing. Surprise your neighbors with a kind note taped to their door to let them know you care. Write a heartfelt letter or note to your grandparents, or teach them to use a new form of technology so that they can have more options to connect with others. Send a letter to close friends to let them know you are thinking about them. People love receiving mail that isn’t the usual junk mail or bills! You’d be surprised how something this simple can brighten someone’s day.
Virtual Dinner with Friends and Family
Most people love coming together for a meal, coffee, or good conversation over a snack and we can STILL do this with the help of a video app. There are several options including Skype, Zoom, and Facebook video apps. You can choose between your tablet or phone to prop up at your table, or you can eat in front of a computer with a webcam. Try starting the conversation earlier and cooking together while video chatting. Make sure your friends can see not only your face but your choice of food and drink while you catch up and laugh about how new and different this whole experience is!
Create a Virtual Birthday Card
Know someone who has a birthday that needs celebrating? Create a virtual birthday card using Google Slides and share it with that special person! Set up a video chat to see their expressions, comments, and laughs while they go through them all! You can share Google Slides via Google Drive with friends or family that also want to wish the special person a “happy birthday.” Each person can have their own slide to type what they want, add a picture, meme, or even a funny GIF. Follow the steps at this link: https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Card-in-Google-Docs
Social Distance Workouts
Do you find it hard to motivate yourself to workout at home? If so, there are clubs such as Absolute Fitness, Nutrition, or trainers that have moved to Facebook Live or are using the Zoom app as a way to invite others to join in on their work outs. With Facebook Live, you can watch and follow along. Join in the social aspect of exercise by commenting during breaks between exercises. With the Zoom app, both sides can see and hear each other which can bring more accountability. Multiple virtual workouts including Zumba are available almost every day of the week!
With help from apps like Discord, Twitch, and Kast, you can set up a screen that can be shared with your friends and family! Even easier, you could pick a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime and have everyone press play at the same time, while chatting about the movie over group text, Discord, or Slack.
Volunteer from Home and Help Food Banks
Many of us struggle with feelings of helplessness during this time and want to be there for others but unsure how to do so. Here are some links with ideas for ways to show up for your community, including helping to bring food to those in need:
There is a lot of uncertainty and fear due to the COVID-19 global outbreak and the majority of us have been negatively affected in some way, shape or form, whether it is the loss of our jobs, transitioning to working from home, or coping with increased stress as our children’s schedules are disrupted. Millions of people are socially distancing to control the spread. The daily news coverage, with occasionally confusing and conflicting reports about the pandemic, has caused the incidence and severity of some people’s anxiety to skyrocket. In times like these, even if we had previously been able to manage our stress and anxiety, we may find it more difficult to manage our mental health and anxiety levels.
Here are a few ways to cope during this trying time:
Take Care of Your Body and Spirit
Remember to drink water. Hydrating can improve your energy levels and brain function. Take at least ten minutes to exercise every day. Even a 10-minute walk can boost your mood, help you think more clearly and sleep better at night.
Get enough sleep. This can help reduce stress and improve productivity. Maintaining a sleep schedule can also help us cope with the schedule disruption that working from home can create.
Take note of your diet. It is common for us to either skip meals or snack more than usual during times of stress. Try adding something healthy you enjoy to your diet, and make sure you are taking note of how certain foods help you feel. It’s helpful to check-in with yourself after a snack or meal to note how it made your body and mind feel. Try to eat more foods that leave you feeling healthy and content.
Share any concerns you may have about the outbreak to a friend or family member. Maintain relationships through your social networks wither this is by scheduling regular phone calls, Facetiming family and friends, or communicating online with friends and family. Staying connected can help you to stave off feelings of depression, anxiety and anger.
Take Mental Breaks
Take time to unwind. If the weather permits, reap the benefits of sunlight! Sunlight can boost your mood, increase your Vitamin D levels (which helps with your mood, immune function, and energy), and help you feel calm and focused.
Take some deep breaths, stretch or meditate. There are several smart phone apps which can be helpful if you prefer guided relaxation. Check out the Pathway Psychiatry Facebook Page to learn more about some options.
Watch news updates from trusted sources so you can take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and family. Focusing on what you can control will help you feel less overwhelmed by things that you are unable to control.
Minimize Unhelpful Media Consumption
Avoid spending too much time watching news that causes you to feel anxious or overwhelmed.
Find a New Hobby or Rediscover an Old Hobby
Trying to do something new or challenging like finishing a book or trying a new recipe in the kitchen can help you reduce stress.
This may be the perfect time to pick up a hobby you previously enjoyed. Try making a list of fun things you enjoyed in the past, and think of how you could incorporate them throughout your week.
Ask for Help
If you are feeling anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, reach out to a supportive person whether this is a clergy member, counselor, or doctor.
You can also contact The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or calling the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Asking for help reveals strength, not weakness.
Remember you’re not alone
Know that feeling stressed, down, guilty or angry during this unusual time is not unusual. Focusing on what we can control is important, and it can be helpful to remember we are not totally helpless and can choose how we respond to times of stress, and measures we take to help manage this stress.
If you know someone who is struggling, reach out and let them know that you care and are available to talk if they need a listening ear.
Stay tuned for more related topics and strategies for managing stress and maintaining your mental health.
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If you are looking for tips to improve your mental health, check out Dr. Ashley Gardner’s tips for improving your coping skills during stressful times. Practicing these easy and everyday tips are a great step to help you achieve a happy and healthy mind!
Tips for Improving Your Mental Health
Find coping skills that work for you. Separate the useful skills from those that are not a good fit, and practice those
Practice “guided imagery” or visualization. Imagine a place or situation you find relaxing, and picture this in your mind, engaging as many senses as possible (smells, sights, sounds, textures).
Schedule some down time without devices or distractions, perhaps taking a “technology holiday” one weekend day a week.
Try setting a sleep schedule. A bedtime routine that you perform every night (such as showering, then 15 minutes of reading) can help train your mind to wind down in the evenings.
Spend time with supportive friends and family. Maintaining healthy relationships helps avoid loneliness, which is a known risk factor for depression.
Find activities that bring you joy like gardening, cooking, or hiking. Having an outlet for stress is important in maintaining your mental health.
Pick any type of exercise and be faithful to it, such as walking, biking, or yoga. Studies show that 30 minutes of exercise 5 times per week has a measurable positive effect on mood, similar to the effect size seen with antidepressants!
Schedule an Appointment with Dr. Ashley Gardner
If you are interested in learning more about how to address your mental health, or are seeking psychiatric treatment, contact our office today at (214) 997-4459.
We are pleased to announce that our Wylie Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on January 10th, at 4:00 p.m. Members of the community are invited to come and meet Dr. Gardner and learn more about Pathway Psychiatry and Counseling Center.
Our clinic is open and scheduling new patients. Call today or submit an appointment request online if you are interested in booking an appointment with Dr. Gardner. We are able to offer most patients appointments within the same week.
Whether you are interested in medication management, therapy, or a combination of the two, we have several appointment options to fit your individual needs.