Maintaining a solid emotional and psychological footing during times of uncertainty can be difficult. It's normal to experience unfamiliar, varied, and intense emotions.
There are many strategies that you can use to help prevent and manage fear, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other issues. Here are five tips from the experts at Intermountain Healthcare that can help you and your loved ones stay mentally healthy during these times of uncertainty:
1. Access virtual help
Morissa Henn, Intermountain’s Community Health Director responsible for mental well-being services, recommends ways to engage virtually in order to get support and process difficult feelings.
"Now is an important time to talk with people we trust. Intermountain’s free Emotional Health Relief Hotline is an ideal place to start to get connected with the array of tools and treatment options," she said.
The hotline is available 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week, at 1-833-442-2211. Henn notes that the hotline team can connect callers with an array of behavioral health treatment sources across the community, many of whom have expanded access via telehealth.
The myStrength app is another important resource, which guides users through exercises to find inner calm and manage overwhelming thoughts in turbulent times. Free access has been made available by the state of Utah using code UDHSguest33.
2. Get plenty of physical activity
Physical activity is proven to have a positive impact on mental health.
"It can relieve stress, improve sleep, and enhance overall well-being," says Kathryn Richards, Community Health Specialist at Intermountain Healthcare. "With some gyms and parks closed, it is important to find creative ways to add physical activity to your day," Richards suggests:
- Set an alarm on your phone at regular intervals to remind yourself to get up and move around. Take a quick walk outside around the block.
- Coordinate with friends or family to do a "steps" challenge to compete for the highest number of steps in a designated time frame.
- Play your favorite music and take five minutes to dance every day – even if you’re alone!
3. Reach out to each other
"We have been asked to ‘socially distance,’ but that doesn’t mean we should socially disconnect," said Richards. "Stay in touch with friends and family members in unique ways. Utilize video chats for fun and interactive visits with family and friends. Share strategies for staying positive with one another."
Richards also suggests "drive-by" visits where you can drive by and wave from the car or driveway while maintaining social distance.
"Window messages of encouragement to other neighbors passing by can also be fun and uplifting," she noted. "You can also help others by running to the grocery store if they can’t go out or providing other services such as mowing a lawn or weeding flowerbeds."
4. Find ways to disconnect from stress
"Take opportunities to reduce stress and anxiety whenever you can," recommends Henn. "There are many unknowns right now – how long will we be social distancing, work disruptions, financial uncertainties, and many others."
Henn suggests some steps to reduce stress and anxiety leaving us feeling more grounded despite uncertainty.
- Limit exposure to media around the pandemic. Find a balance between being informed and watching 24 hours-a-day. Follow reliable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
- Use focused meditation and relaxation. Turn off digital devices and media coverage and enjoy at least 10 minutes of thoughtful meditation. (Utilize an app as suggested above to help guide your meditation if desired.)
- Set and keep a schedule, go to bed and wake up at regular times, and keep your work or school routine as close to normal as possible.
- Pursue the activities you normally love doing that can be continued during this time.
- Include time in your daily schedule to decompress.
- Most importantly, control what you can control. Make cleanliness a priority. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched. Keep focused on what you can control at this time, which includes staying at home and staying safe.
- Keep things in perspective.
"This is a strange and unprecedented time, but things will return to normal eventually," said Henn. "Keeping things in perspective can help you make better decisions for yourself. Remember the airplane rule: put your oxygen mask on first before helping others."
5. Ask for help
"It is important to ask for help when you need it," concludes Richards. "Changes in our lifestyles such as working from home, home-schooling children, and not being able to physically visit with friends or family can be challenging. If you become overwhelmed and feel like your thoughts or actions have become debilitating, please know that it is ok to ask for help."
That can be as simple as asking a friend or neighbor to pick something up for you at the store next time they go or reaching out for assistance in finding mental health support services.
Individuals feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, are encouraged to reach out to a professional for help.
In Utah, you can call or go to:
- Your primary care medical provider or pediatrician
- The Emotional Health Relief Line 1-833-442-2211
- The Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
- A behavioral health provider for a telehealth appointment
- For emergency childcare 2-1-1
- For support regarding an alcohol or drug problem 2-1-1
"It’s important to keep grounded and take care of yourself both mentally and physically during these unusual times," said Henn. "We want to help everyone live the healthiest lives possible, which includes mental well-being."