When it comes to awareness and mental health, it’s not always as it seems.
You don’t know what someone is going through just by looking at them. However, with the tumultuous last nearly two years we’ve had, you can pretty much guarantee that everyone around you has been affected by COVID-19 in some way or another. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “In January 2021, 41% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder.” That’s compared to one in ten adults who reported symptoms in 2019.
With the winter and holidays approaching, that can equally lead to mental health struggles for those that already do have to face the challenge day to day, as well as those that it is seasonal for.
Defining ‘mental health’
Before diving into solutions for better mental health, we first have to define mental health and why it’s so important.
MentalHealth.gov says that mental health “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.”
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling depleted and low energy
- Disengagement with friends, family, or activities
- Feeling like nothing really matters
- Having repeating thoughts and memories
- Increased smoking, drinking, or drugs
- Feeling on edge or frustrated, defensive, upset, confused, worried, sad, angry more than usual
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
Stigma leads to silence
If you’ve felt any of these symptoms, you’re definitely not alone. In the past, silence around the struggles of mental health have led to further isolation and suffering.
If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that we have to stand together when life gets tough. Humans are made for connection. We’re literally hardwired to connect. That’s why silence around mental health can be detrimental. With suicide as the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the U.S., we must begin speaking out and standing in our truth together.
One simple way to stop the silence is by reaching out to a friend or family member to ask how they're doing. Also, if you're going through something difficult, let someone know. You don't have to go through this alone.
Yoso Wellness Spa & Annex Founder, Jennalee Dahlen’s experience:
"I never should've had to wake up the way I did.
The ripple effect it had was devastating, and the relationships affected can be some of the biggest traumas alongside a sexual assault. For me, true physical and emotional intimacy took time to feel safe and as a result that had consequences. Can you imagine how hard it would be for your loved ones that it is hard for you to look in their eyes, hold them, hug them, connect with them?
Friendships can be altered because you are not present in your true self, you are different, but yet you look ok from the outside. What happened to the person they knew?
I was disassociated with myself, struggling with intense depression and anxiety and didn’t even fully realize it until, in a quick swift jolt, the universe woke me up. I decided to take my life back. I wouldn’t give him the power, reported him, got off the medications, quit drinking after falling into alcoholism, felt the embrace of a real hug and really looked into people’s eyes on more than a surface, acquaintance level.
I lost a lot a lot as a result of my assault, but I have regained MY POWER, MY VOICE & MY CHOICE. And that is a victory. My journey isn’t over, the ripple effect has created waves that require healing, but I’m on my way.
I was able to get to this point in part because of things like therapy, programs to support me with mental health, writing, exercise, programs like RISE located in San Luis Obispo where I was assaulted. For Santa Cruz locals, Monarch Services was equally a tremendous support with advocates and counseling services."
Ways to Improve Mental Health
As we see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, it’s not all a quick fix. We still need to bring awareness to how we can better support ourselves and those around us. What are some techniques we can use to improve our mental health as we enter this new era of a post-pandemic world?
Healthy eating choices
Getting enough sleep
Start a self-care routine
Journal for reflection
Reach out to friends and family for support
Seek professional help
Let’s learn and grow through these challenging times and take care of each other in the process. Start by sharing this article with your loved ones!