Please, take care in understanding and protecting your mental health. Grow your understanding by reading and listening to credible resources.
Just a few thoughts
If you use social media or the internet to find information, use caution, as there are people who spread misinformation about mental health. – People who are lifestyle bloggers, coaches, or celebrities (people who probably don’t have an educational degree on the subject). Always get the professional’s advice.
Expand your resources and tools. If you’ve never listened to a podcast episode on mental health, consider listening one day while cooking dinner. Subscribe to a mental health care professional’s YouTube channel. Buy a new book that sounds really interesting. You could start a wish list of books and workbooks on Amazon or write them in your journal. Having more valuable resources at your fingertips helps you to further understand and protect your mental health.
Other’s mental health
Also, take the time to learn about how mental health affects everyone differently. We will all likely respond in dissimilar ways to issues and crisis. Many people struggle in silence and still carry on throughout their day doing the best that they can. A struggle isn’t always fully apparent.
Use this distress scale to help you stay more aware of how you are doing. The scale is 0 to 10, where 0 is that you feel at peace and are completely calm, and 10 is distress that is so unbearable that you cannot function. Refer to the scale, as-needed. If you find yourself rated at 4, where negative thoughts begin to impact you, consider talking to a mental health professional because it is better to get help sooner than later. Don’t allow yourself to be in a distressful state for too long. When you feel change is needed, take action and contact someone.
Seek help from a mental health professional at any time, you do not need to be in distress to get help. A professional counselor can provide services for things such as managing stress and anxiety, examining thoughts and behaviors, support you in life transitions, and teach you how to strengthen your mind.
0: Peace and complete calm
1: No real distress, but a slight feeling of unpleasantness
2: A little bit sad or “off”
3: Worried or upset
4: Upset to the point that negative thoughts begin to impact you
5: Upset and uncomfortable
6: Discomfort to the point that you feel a change is needed
7: Discomfort dominates your thoughts and you struggle not to show it
8: Panic takes hold
9: Feeling desperate, helpless, and unable to handle it
10: Unbearably upset to the point that you cannot function and may be on the verge of a breakdown
Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are signs that you should ask for help
It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks in ourselves. When we experience these symptoms frequently, for longer than a few weeks, it is time to ask for help. Take action. We tend to go for far too long, trying to remain strong, that we become weak. The depression, anxiety, and panic attacks can begin to harm multiple areas of our lives. Social, relationships, school, work, etc. A counselor can teach you ways to cope and renew your strength.
These 12 tips are specific to living through a pandemic (COVID-19) where there are multiple tragic events and crisis occurring at once on a worldwide scale.
A brief overview of the destruction that COVID-19 has caused
• People are ill and dying from a virus.
• People are socially isolated from family and friends.
• People are restricted in where they can go and what they can do.
• People have lost jobs and are financially unstable.
– Connected to all of this is the person’s identity because people identify themselves through going out and participating.
• Political issues, finger pointing and name calling are a big part of this pandemic.
• People wear face masks to reduce spread of the virus, but the mask also hides smiles.
• Anxiety, depression and suicide is on the rise.
• People are silently hurting.
The benefits of these tips are (but not limited to)
• Increased happiness
• Connection to others
• Raising awareness
• Fostering positivity
• Finding value and meaning in life
• Learning coping strategies
• Finding help
Keep in mind that this article isn’t telling you to ignore, dismiss, or minimize what’s going on around us. It is important to sit with the difficult emotions and thoughts, to process, and personally grow from what’s occurring in our lives. We can’t run, there needs to be a resolution to do something about it, but there needs to be a balance and healthy approach.
Let’s cover the tips on getting through
1) Limit your time on social media and watching the news. Be informed and have proper understanding about what’s going on around the world, but don’t allow the information to overwhelm and carry you away. The information on social media and the news shouldn’t occupy a good portion of your day.
2) Mute or unfollow people on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram if they are posting unhelpful information on the pandemic or are posting frequently on the pandemic. Always check the resource of what they post to make sure it is true and accurate. There is a lot of information being shared that is inaccurate or highly one-sided. Be your own researcher, fact-checker, and it is beneficial to try to see from both sides of an issue. Widening perspective allows us to have a more open mind and gives us a little more breathing room.
3) Use social media and technology to your advantage. Since we have to limit being around others or can’t be around people at all, use social media to connect and to lift up others. Post something kind or funny. Post a beautiful picture. Have an engaging conversation, but leave out the pandemic and political issues surrounding it. You can lift someone’s spirit and your own!
We use video platforms on almost a daily basis now, continue to use it to connect. Talk to a good friend who you haven’t seen in a while. Use video platforms to check-in with a person’s mental health, you don’t know who is suffering in silence.
Are you feeling unsure about how to check-in? This link will lead you to check-in questions:
Do you have a favorite hobby or interest? Join and follow social media groups and pages to motivate and fuel your interests.
4) Virtual tours, adventures and visits. If you are looking for something new and interesting to do without leaving your house, take a virtual trip to a National Park, zoo, museum, etc. Think of somewhere that you’ve never been and would like to go. Read about it, look at pictures, watch videos, and take a virtual tour. This is fun activity to do with kids and it’s educational.
If you’re religious or spiritual, consider attending a virtual service or practice.
5) Teach someone about your hobby or trade. Write, blog, create social media content, and make a video to do so. Engage with people, answer their questions, and provide them with credible resources so they can learn more.
5) Increase your self-care. Do more of what you enjoy and try new things, even if you don’t feel like it. Take care of your body and mind. Try to keep to a normal schedule, this includes proper exercise, diet, and staying hydrated. If you’re overwhelmed with work, schedule in self-care. Slow down, read a book, take a bath, watch a movie, call someone you care about.
6) Make a vision board to stay focused on your long-term goals. Read how here:
8) Practice mindfulness, breathing and or meditation. Find someone who provides these services online if you need help getting started. Create a YouTube playlist of relaxing music and sounds that you can practice to. Don’t give up if these exercises don’t immediately benefit you in an impactful way, it takes time to learn them. It’s a process.
9) Use online presence to raise awareness or funds for a cause that you’re passionate about. Help people learn more, support people who need it the most, connect to others who care about the same thing as you. Feel good!
10) Use positive affirmations and practice them regularly. Read more and find examples here:
11) Have a safety plan and an emergency plan. For the safety plan:
• Write down what triggers maladaptive behaviors.
• Write coping strategies for each trigger that you can participate in right away.
• Write down three positive affirmations or favorite quotes.
• List three people whom you can trust to call and talk to and receive support from (Do ahead of time: make sure that they know they are on your safety plan list and tell them how they can best support you if you contact them.) (Ideas on how they can help: this can range from a phone call to recall favorite memories or to meet up for coffee.).
• If your situation turns into an emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or your local mental health crisis lifeline. Add these emergency phone numbers to your safety plan.
12) Speak with a professional counselor. They can teach you several coping strategies and powerful tools like cognitive reframing. They are someone who will be present with you, be non-judgmental, listen, and provide feedback. They will support you and give you space for you to process your strongest emotions and thoughts.
Check out these other benefits to seeing a counselor:
IMPROVE the Moment is the next skill. The acronym IMPROVE makes life a little bit better when it is not going so well.
During a crisis, you have two options. You can sink into the distress or invest in behaviors that might improve how you feel in the moment.
I: Imagery M: Meaning P: Prayer R: Relaxation O: One thing (or moment) at a time V: Vacation E: Encouragement
Imagery is powerful because your mind can convince your body that you are elsewhere. A good example is being at the beach. When you’re actually sitting on the beach, your muscles are relaxed. When you imagine yourself at the beach (and you’re elsewhere), you can still get your muscles to relax, you convince your body that you are sitting there.
Ideas for imagery
Use an app or purchase a recorded guided imagery. You can also just use your own mind and create a guided imagery.
• Forest path • Walk on the beach • Favorite place • Safe place • Sunflower field • Stroll by a stream • Waterfall • Garden of butterflies • Sunset • Star gazing • Mountain summit hike • Sitting by a campfire
Practice and enjoy the benefits! Also, imagine yourself doing well and practicing your skills.
Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), one of the founders of existential therapy, once said “If there is a why, then a person can figure out the how.” [Look him up, his life was remarkable. He wrote the book “A Man’s Search for Meaning,” which is about being a psychologist in a concentration camp. He is well-known for this book, but he has several other accomplishments.]
List and contemplate your “whys” for working on any problem.
Examples: Why stay safe?; why practice your skills?; why improve your self-care?
Having meaning motivates you; your whys will motivate you to act.
Prayer is a calming ritual, it also provides connection, guidance, and peace.
Pray where you are at, or go to your place of connectedness or worship. This skill is useful anywhere and at anytime. Connect to your spirituality.
Everyone needs relaxation. What do you do to relax? What do you think could be relaxing that you would like to try?
Schedule in some of those relaxing behaviors every day. Keep in mind that relaxing also takes practice.
Tips for practice: Be mindful of your breathing; be mindful of tense muscles and release the tension; sit in a quiet place.
One thing (or moment) at a time
Take on only one thing in the moment. When we try to juggle or do too many things at once, we become overwhelmed and or shut down completely.
Example: You don’t know how to make it through your day, but you know that you can make it through the next hour, or through the next 5 minutes. Focus on what is manageable.
Take a break from your stressors or crisis. These breaks need to be planned, like scheduling a walk in the park in the evening, or watching your favorite movie before bedtime. Taking quiet time to reflect, meditate, or do deep breathing exercises are also good ideas.
Allow yourself to take a break when you feel that you need it.
You need encouragement during those tough times. The things that you say to yourself matter, they influence how you feel.
During your self-talk, say affirmations, coach, and cheer for yourself.
Write down 10 affirmations you can repeat to yourself throughout difficult times.
• This crisis will pass. • I can do this! • I have everything that I need to get through this.
Download affirmations to help get through a crisis here
When people “cope” with stress and crisis, they find out ways (behaviors) that relieve stress, however, some of these ways come with heavy consequences. Examples of ineffective behaviors are drug and alcohol use, self-injury, gambling, spending money, and overeating.
We can learn distress tolerance skills to effectively manage the stress and crisis. These skills are more helpful than dealing with the consequences of the ineffective behaviors that make life worse.
Try it out
Make two lists, one is your ineffective coping behaviors, and the second is your healthy coping behaviors. If you’re struggling coming up with the healthy ones, keep thinking, because everyone has at least a few.
The goal is to work on eliminating the ineffective coping behaviors on the first list while developing the behaviors on the second.
This process is “doing more of what works”, replacing the ineffective with the healthy and effective.
Guidelines to improve distress tolerance skills
1. Practice the skills daily, even when you’re not feeling distressed. The skills tend to be enjoyable, so practicing shouldn’t feel like work.
2. Diversify the skills, try new ones, and practice every skill more than once because you don’t know which ones will “click” for you.
3. Organize a distress tolerance plan for when you’re in crisis and choose to follow the plan. It will keep you focused. Write down your organized plan on an index card. This would be your coping behaviors and any people who can provide support. Keep this card with you.
This index card plan works well for children while they’re away from home. Example: at school.
This is general information on distress tolerance and the skills to learn to better cope with stress and crisis, the next step is to learn the skills themselves, practice applying them, watch for improvements, and make necessary adjustments.
To help raise awareness for mental health and suicide, I will be doing 25 pushups a day, for the next 25 days. Towards the bottom of this page is a YouTube video that I created of the challenge. The video contains snippets of the 25 days and statistics on mental health and suicide.
I was nominated by a friend to do this challenge because I’m all about fitness and taking on challenges (not to mention, I’m a mental health counselor).
I’m INVITING YOU to do something to help raise awareness for mental health and suicide, as well! Whether you choose to do this push up challenge, another awesome challenge, or share this post, I’d be *so excited* to have you participate!! Please share with me how you’re raising awareness!
Here are the rules for the pushup challenge
*Your 25 days starts tomorrow. *Everyday, record yourself doing 25 pushups. *Everyday, you must invite a different person to participate. — modified pushups (from the knees) count! — just do your best! —
If you are struggling and need someone to talk to, contact me or find a counselor through Psychology Today or Therapy Den (there are many other platforms, too.) If you’re in a situation where you need to talk with someone immediately, please call the number below.
This pushup challenge has been: 1) challenging. 2) a joy. 3) a blessing. • I’ve gotten to share two things that I’m passionate about, fitness and mental health. • It has been great having chats with people about the importance of supporting one another’s mental health, and most paramount, raising awareness for and preventing suicide. • There’s a lot to be grateful for.
** Please consider doing the pushup challenge or raise awareness in another way. You WILL make a positive impact on someone’s life! ** Share about what you are doing to raise awareness with me and those around you! ** You can and WILL make a difference. **
The types of thoughts that we have can make a big difference in the way that we handle going through a crisis or difficult time. An affirmation is a short and simple statement that is used to bring subconscious thoughts conscious. As thoughts become conscious, we can begin to take control of our way of thinking.
By adopting positive affirmations, we can build a more resilient brain, allowing us to better cope through tough times. Over time and with repetition, our thoughts can change our brains, and even our cells and genes. This process of the brain changing is called neuroplasticity. Affirmations activate the brain’s reward center. – I’ll include a link to an easy to read article that explains the science at the end.
Choose a few affirmations that you feel are most relevant to the crisis or difficult time. You may also create your own. You can download and print out this sheet and place it somewhere in your home or at your workplace. If the affirmations are visible to others, maybe they will benefit? Another idea is to write them on a sticky note or index card. Since sticky notes don’t take up a lot of space, good spots to place them are, on a mirror, refrigerator, or work computer.
Repeat the affirmations a couple times per day to yourself and read them out loud. Reading them out loud is effective because you’re hearing them in your own voice. Neuroplasticity occurs overtime, so give the process time to unfold before you give up on it. The best time to practice the affirmations is when you feel
Let me know if you have any questions.
I remain calm in a crisis.
I am slowly becoming the kind of person who can survive this storm.
I am free of anxiety and am living a calm life.
When circumstances change, I will feel all the more grateful for what I have.
I am replacing my negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
I am attracting positive energy into my body.
I am safe and in control.
I’m not going to be struggling my whole life.
I’m not alone in this world.
The situation I’m currently dealing with is only going to make me stronger, wiser and powerful.
The feelings of panic are leaving my body.
My mind is clearing and I am in control.
My body is calm.
I find joy in moving forward.
I choose to shine, not to suffer.
I have what I need to get through this.
Problems are opportunities for growth.
I am able to see what needs to be handled first move through the rest after that.
Living according to my values is what really matters.
I acknowledge all the good in my life because I know that this is the foundation for all abundance.
I move through life with easy and grace.
Life is as good as I make it.
I have the power to change the world in a positive way by being myself.
Failure is part of the road to success.
Good things are going to happen.
I am confident that I will get through this.
I will always remember how far I have come, not just how far I have to go.
I will start where I am, use what I have and do what I can.
I know that I can do it.
I make wise decisions.
Everything will be okay.
I’m human and I can learn from my mistakes.
I face problems bravely.
I am strong.
All I can do is my best.
Everything that I have gone through has helped me grow.
This life is mine to live and I’m going to make the most of it.
I’m not going to quit.
Things always get better with time.
Happiness begins with me.
I am resilient and capable.
I’m grateful for everything that I have.
My mental health is improving.
I can deal with it.
I feel free and happy.
I have abundant energy, vitality and well-being.
Five years from now, this won’t matter as much as I think it will.
Everything will be okay.
I inhale confidence and exhale fears.
I’m thriving and make the most of every moment.
I’m in a safe space.
I’m letting go of my stress.
I’m not getting discouraged.
I have a positive mindset.
Things in my life will start to be better.
I am holding my head up high.
I breathe in relaxation, I breathe out tension.
I can get through anything.
I welcome challenges into my life.
Challenges are opportunities to learn and grow.
I’m stronger than I think.
I am getting stronger everyday.
I am a strong and capable person.
I can handle feeling uncomfortable.
I am in control of how I think, feel and behave.
Hard times do not get the best of me.
I have the ability to overcome every obstacle.
I will not let fear take control of me.
I release all negativity from my life.
When I have done all I know how to do, I choose to let my mind rest.
I’ve been knocked down before and I can get back up again.
I welcome fear as a sign to be careful, but choose to let go of it when it no longer serves me.