Healthy Tahoe: 5 practical tips in dealing with COVID-19 anxiety
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and a good time check in with yourself and loved ones. So many of us are struggling to keep our mental health in check right now. It’s normal to feel anxious about the impacts of COVID-19. Preventing our worries from consuming us can reduce stress and uncertainty — and even more severe behavioral health issues like suicide.
Join Barton Health in raising awareness of suicide prevention during this important time: know the signs, find the words, and reach out to others. You can get resources and learn more at BartonHealth.org/SuicidePreventionMonth. I encourage you to promote your own well-being during these challenging times; here are five tips to help reduce anxiety that can be brought on by the pandemic. Tip 1: Follow CDC Guidelines
If you’re nervous about contracting the virus, put your mind more at ease by following prevention tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Information, guidelines, and local updates are available at CDC.gov and BartonHealth.org/Coronavirus. Tip 2: Engage Your Mind, and Your Friends
Most of us are spending more time isolated and at home. You can choose to release yourself from being consumed by anxiety-fueled thoughts and getting caught up in a cycle of stress. Prize this time for renewal if you can. Some ideas include engaging friends and family in new ways; such as virtual events and socially distanced outdoor get-togethers. Flexing your brain supports mental health, and this is a great time to read new books and explore games, puzzles, and apps. Experimenting with new recipes is also beneficial, and I recommend trying to create a meal each week with ingredients that nourish mental function, like seafood and vegetables.
Tip 3: Go Back to Basics
Mental and behavioral health is rightfully getting a lot of attention these days. Restoring your physical health is critical to mental well-being and protects your body. Use your extra free time to focus consistently following a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, exercising 30 minutes or more daily. Take this month to create healthy habits and make time for routines such as taking walks around your neighborhood, enjoying a favorite hike or trail, bicycling, or trying a free workout video online.
Tip 4: Monitor Your Stress Signals
Are you eating more or less than usual? Feeling overly tired? Getting stomach aches? These may be clues that your stress levels are skyrocketing. Other warning signs include struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, drinking alcohol or using drugs more than usual, feeling angry, and having difficulty concentrating. If you identify with one or more of these symptoms, it’s probably time for a change.
Tip 5: Ask for Help
Don’t suffer in silence. Everyone needs a little help sometimes. If stress is disrupting your life, reach out for help. That might mean calling a family member for emotional support or contacting your healthcare provider. In addition to local mental health services, the Disaster Distress Hotline provides 24/7 crisis counseling by calling 800-985-5990, or texting TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained counselor.
If you are contemplating hurting yourself or others, dial 911. Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, and they often indicate more serious mental health issues. Talking about suicide has been shown to reduce thoughts of hopelessness, so don’t hesitate to ask for help. Or, if you know someone who might be struggling, reach out to that person. Safe, accessible care is available.
Board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Joe Hibbeln recently joined the team of mental and behavioral health providers practicing at Barton Health in South Lake Tahoe, CA, and Stateline, Nev. He is presenting at Barton’s free community Wellness Webinar from 5-6 p.m. Sept. 17. For more information, visit BartonHealth.org/Lectures.
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