Managing Our Mental Health in the Midst of the Pandemic
Over the last year, we have collectively gone through a reeducation process surrounding best ways to ‘take care’. While the pandemic caused us to immediately focus on how to support our physical well-being, we quickly understood that ‘health’ included taking care of our mental wellness.
“Bringing awareness to best practices and understanding mental health as physical health is a great place to start.”
Fluctuating statistics, novel discoveries, and an everchanging narrative contributed to an increase in individual stress levels to the point where stress management became an essential aspect of Covid-care and prevention. Moreover, prolonged isolation, and chronic fear triggered a simultaneous crisis in the psychiatric space, resulting in self-imposed loss of life. Now, while there is no single best solution to supporting mental health, and the path to emotional wellness is specific to the individual, bringing awareness to best practices and understanding mental health as physical health is a great place to start.
“We thought it vital to go for an annual check-up, but taboo to see a therapist”
Before the pandemic, while conversations surrounding mental health were beginning to be more commonplace, many of us still understood emotional and physical health as two separate entities. We thought it vital to go for an annual check-up, but taboo to see a therapist. Now, more attention has been placed on speaking openly about the link between our mental state and overall health status.
Science has shown that chronic stress and anxiety can manifest as a delayed immune response to viruses and bacteria as well as contribute to negative gastrointestinal symptoms and poor cardiovascular health. So, how can we mitigate this when the contributors to our poor mental health status seem to be out of our control? For starters, learning to control our thoughts is a hugely healthful practice. Recognizing what influences where our mind goes, and realizing when it’s time to take back control is one of the most empowering things we can do for our health.
“Empowering yourself to turn down the volume on sources of extra noise can be liberating”.
A relatable example of how to do this involves the news. Many of us are afraid of not being up to date on the latest facts and figures when in reality, much of what is broadcasted is a repetition of the gravest statistics. Trusting that you will know what is imperative, and empowering yourself to turn down the volume on sources of extra noise can be liberating. Similarly, feeling confident to ask others not to share their fears if the conversation is one-sided, can be hugely beneficial to our mental health. For some, showing they care can quickly turn into listing off their worries. Feeling confident to express thanks for the good intentions but maintaining the integrity of your positive personal space by distancing yourself from someone until their narrative is more constructive, is something we should all feel comfortable doing.
“Practicing the Letting Go technique can create a sense of control amidst an out-of-control environment”
When it comes to our internal dialogue, thought acknowledgement and replacement or practicing the Letting Go technique can create a sense of control amidst an out-of-control environment. Having dominion over your thoughts as opposed to letting your thoughts dominate you, and actively engaging in productive thinking has been shown to have a plethora of health benefits.
This is not a recommendation for delusion or fighting through pain via forced positive thinking. And while this is certainly not advocating that controlling our thoughts is the end all when it comes to health, what this does bring to light is that we are each in control of our mind and as science has acknowledged that our emotional and physical wellness is interconnected, then, we can draw solace in the fact that, to a large extent, we all have the tools to claim a positive health status.
Ariel Suazo-Maler holds a master’s in nutrition from Columbia University and has spent years studying the genetic and neuroanatomical underpinnings of schizophrenia, the neurophysiology of taste perception, and the role of nutrition in depression and anxiety.