As I write this, I’m recovering from a case of what my doctor presumes was COVID-19, although I have tested negative for now.
I spent weeks in bed, struck down by a virus while millions of people around the globe have taken unprecedented steps to protect our physical health.
As we work diligently to ensure that as few people as possible contract the new coronavirus, it is important for us to recognize that every single one of us is already being affected by the outbreak.
The emotional blows that this crisis has dealt are already wreaking havoc on our mental health. Today I want to urge you to assess your mental health wellness and take active steps to care for yourself.
While COVID-19 may not attack your body, every single one of us is being impacted emotionally. Almost everyone’s stress and anxiety has increased during this unusual time, so it is completely normal to not be feeling as psychologically healthy and robust as usual.
Sick family members, vulnerable loved ones living in an outbreak hotspot, economic anxiety, job loss, isolation and loneliness, the list of stressors and environmental factors threatening our mental well being is growing by the minute.
Luckily, there’s plenty you can do right now, from home, to take care of yourself. While writing this piece, I reached out to friends of mine in the mental health field who helped me compile the following recommendations.
I’m very grateful to Rick Ginsberg, Ph.D., President of the Colorado Psychological Association and Felicidad X. Fraser-Solak, LCSW, Colorado Chapter President of the National Association of Social Workers, for their suggestions and willingness to help during this time.
Be proactive with your mental health by engaging in activities that are calming and fulfilling, and decreasing activities that tend to bring you down or create more stress. Some examples might be taking a news break, chatting with a friend remotely, giving yourself permission to enjoy that special treat, exercising or finally picking up that hobby or project.
Now is the time to do those self-care things they’ve been putting off, and to schedule them into their day.
When we “pay it forward” to our mental health this way, we strengthen our ability to cope. If you’re feeling so sad or anxious that it’s interfering with your ability to enjoy things or get everyday activities done, you should reach out to a licensed mental health provider.
One great resource is the Colorado Psychological Association, which has a list of providers by specialty area.
Reaching out to a mental health provider is, without a doubt, a sign of strength. It is more important now than ever to rid ourselves of the stigma around mental health care. When the dust settles and this public health crisis is in the rear view mirror, we’ll have our work cut out for us.
We’ll need everyone to be as mentally well as possible so we can get our communities, our economy and our state back on track. Reaching out for help when you need it is how you ensure that you and your family make it through this time.
If you feel that you need immediate attention, or if you believe you are in or nearing a mental health crisis, I implore you to contact Colorado Crisis Services. They provide free, confidential, professional, 24/7 support for any resident of our state who needs it. Visit their website, call 844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255. Please don’t delay. Help today could save your life or the life of another tomorrow.
Dafna Michaelson Jenet is the state Representative for Colorado House District 30. She serves as the Co-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and the Vice Chair of the Public Health Care & Human Services Committee.