During this pandemic, the focus has been on keeping our bodies healthy, which is a priority. There are many guidelines to help us to do just that, including wearing masks, washing our hands, and maintaining social distancing. But, what about our mental health? Studies have shown that depression, anxiety and suicides are now at an all-time high.

Many factors contribute to these increases, including loneliness from self-isolation, loss of employment, fear for our families and our futures, and dismay at the economic impact to our country. The constant barrage of bad news in the media also heightens our sense of anxiety and sadness. For those who have battled COVID-19 or lost loved ones, and for the healthcare workers fighting on the front lines, these issues are compounded. Facing our own and others’ mortality can wear greatly on our mental health.

What’s been even more detrimental during this time is our inability to take part in activities that decrease stress, help us cope with anxiety, and bring us enjoyment. Playing sports, going to the gym or spa, getting together with friends, and being with our families often add to our sense of well-being. For many, these options are limited right now.

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So, what can we safely do to maintain and improve our mental health? Here are some ideas:

  • Get outdoors. A change of scenery, along with some fresh air, keeps our minds active.
  • Exercise. Walk, run, or bicycle around your neighborhood, or take a hike through some local parks.
  • Go to the beach. There is something about being near water that always makes us feel invigorated.
  • Connect with family and friends by phone or online. Just hearing loved ones’ voices provides an instant lift to our day, and if you can see their faces, even better.
  • Volunteer. Nothing gives us a better sense of accomplishment and joy than helping others who are less fortunate.
  • Reach out. If depression or anxiety become overwhelming, call your healthcare practitioner or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Help is always available; don’t hesitate to ask for it.   

Contributing author Susan Baldani is a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.