Mental health is something that many people deal with on a daily basis, but it is an issue that few people regularly bring up or discuss. Coronavirus has unexpectedly and abruptly put mental health at the forefront of our lives. People have been at home and forced to be with their thoughts, some healthy and some not so healthy.
Before coronavirus people had natural distractions: commutes, workplace, friends, social and sporting events, children’s activities, outdoor activities and going out to eat. Now with the quarantine, all of the natural distractions have been removed and people are left with their own thoughts, emotions and beliefs.
Mental health is defined as a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. Knowing that we are facing our mental health head on, we should know some of the signs and symptoms of people working through difficult mental health situations.
As a therapist and yoga teacher, I often hear people say, ”My thoughts are racing all day long and I am up all night.” When I hear this, my first thought would be this person may have anxiety. People will often talk about nervousness, shortness of breath, fears and being tired often. People will mention that they have a difficult time focusing on tasks, their minds will float to their fears and they will sometimes have a difficult time talking with people.
At times, this anxiety may include panic. People will often report their heart is racing, palpitating, or pounding out of their chest. They will notice themselves sweating, shaking and or without breath. They will have this feeling of hopelessness or a loss of control. This can even turn into a fear that will keep them from leaving the house due to their fear that an attack may occur and they will have no control.
Depression can manifest in similar ways, but with a few distinctive added symptoms. Two of the most pronounced signs of depression are a deep sadness that lasts longer than 14 days and a loss of interest in things they enjoyed previously. People will often talk about being apathetic, significant weight loss or gain, feeling on edge, excessive sleeping or lack of sleep, and anger. Feelings of hopelessness, unusual behaviors, unhealthy coping (excessive drinking, use of drugs or self injurious behaviors) and even thoughts of not living any longer are major warning signs of depression.
Knowing that these symptoms are serious and our situations are not likely to change any time soon, it is important to look for ways to help ourselves to regain healthy power and control over our lives in this unpredictable climate.
Below is a list of 10 activities you can engage in to help mitigate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Access friends and family. Talk to your safe friends and safe family about how you are feeling. Talking to people you trust will help you feel less isolated in your own feelings.
Breathing or pranayama as it is called in yoga is important and there is science to back it up!
Breathing deeply from your abdomen, can help stimulate the vagus nerve. Deep breathing activates neurons that measure your blood pressure. The neurons send a message to the vagus nerve that your blood pressure is elevated, and the vagus nerve is responsible for lowering your heart rate.
When you are exhaling you also want to extend the exhale to again help the vagus nerve slow the heart rate via the parasympathetic nervous system. So when you are inhaling and exhaling, the vagus nerve is measuring and calculating what is occurring in the body and adjusts to calm your nervous system. If you want to engage in a 5 minute breathing exercise, visit this link to practice.
Connect to people online. Even if you don’t feel like meeting up, people say they are glad they did afterwards. If you feel as though you do not have any trusted friends or family, join us! We host a FREE community check in on Sundays at 3:00 pm. Click here to sign up!
Doing yoga. Yoga is not only for those who are uber flexible and sit for hours in poses (or asanas). Yoga can help those looking to move their bodies and help calm their brains. Yoga brings you through poses that help regulate your nervous systems through breath and mindfulness. If you are interested in trying yoga, click here to sign up for a free 90 minute yoga for beginners workshop.
Get outside. Now that the trails and some parks are open, take advantage of the opportunity for fresh air. Walking activates the left and right side of your brain with the bilateral movements of walking. This helps both sides of the brain “talk” to each other and thus allowing for the brain to heal.
Journal. Writing down your feelings, thoughts, internal messages and gratitudes allows you to objectively look at what is occurring in your brain. In the mornings I suggest a gratitude list to start the day. “Brain dumping” prior to bed allows all your fears or anxieties to be placed outside yourself, allowing yourself to sleep.
Online Classes. Thankfully we have seen an increase in free or low online events being offered by colleges, radio stations, fitness centers, libraries and local centers. Visit eventbrite.com to search for your knitting class, cooking instruction or next Zumba class!
Meditate. Meditation is often seen as an activity to wonderful monks, but meditation and mindfulness can be used by us all! During meditation we are encouraged to notice how we are feeling in our body which activates the ventral vagal calming rather than dorsal vagal shut-down. Essentially it allows us to be present in the moment to help calm our bodies. Here is another video taking you through a 5 minute meditation.
Music. Listening to music can lower your heart rate allowing your body to relax and dial down. I suggest people to create a playlist of songs that help them calm down. We create playlists for our trauma focused yoga classes to help ease people into the practice. Click here to read and download the most calming songs researched by music therapists and scientists.
Talk to a therapist. Therapists do not give advice for fix your problems. Therapists provide you with a safe non-judgmental space for you to explore all parts of your difficult situations. Therapists impart their reflections of the situations allowing you to hear your story from another person’s perspective. To find a therapist to meet your needs and one that can see you online, you can click here.
By utilizing these tips listed above and knowing you are doing the best you can, you will be able to weather this storm we call Corona.
Kris Silvestry, Owner Peace of Mind Yoga, Counseling and Wellness Center
Berkeley Heights, NJ
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