Before COVID-19, May was designated to be Mental Health Month as a way to bring awareness to the challenges those with mental health issues face, as well as to learn how to help someone who experiences mental health problems, and to also decrease the stigma behind the words “mental health”.
Mental health is now at the center of many conversations as we begin to emerge from stay-at-home orders.
A recent Time magazine article, by Markham Heid, says there is a significant increase in the number of people reporting “serious mental distress” this year compared to 2018. Heid writes, “More than one in four American adults met the criteria that psychologists use to diagnose serious mental distress and illness. That represents a roughly 700% increase from pre-pandemic data collected in 2018.”
And a new campaign called, How Are You Really? launched by designer Kenneth Cole, and supported by the Mental Health Coalition is helping to address this mental distress and illness. The campaign asks this question “How you are you really?“
The coalition has brought together some of the most influential people in media and the mental health professional community to address this issue.
So, if you’re asking yourself this question, “How are you really?” and finding a lump in your throat or tears in your eyes as you being to answer it, here are five ways you can begin to help yourself with your mental health:
1. Become transparent. As we emerge from staying-at- home, an essential part of looking at mental health will be to become transparent with yourself. It takes courage to speak up and admit things aren’t going well. You are scared and aren’t even sure what to call this overwhelming sadness. The loss can feel like a fog and you can’t see clearly. As long as you try to minimize or deny it, you’re not able to accurately address the problem.
2. Simply name it.Sometimes the greatest distance is between our head and our heart. Your mind may try to tell you one thing, while your heart is sick with worry and anxiety.
When it comes to mental health, you aren’t expected to the be expert. You don’t need to have a sophisticated language or vocabulary to identify your feelings or fears. It is okay to use the words – sad, anger, fear or doubt. And if you don’t think those words are accurate it is okay, to still reach out and simply describe what you are doing each day. Sometimes our actions speak louder than our words.
3. Seek help. Acceptance of how you are really feeling is one of the first steps to getting help. It is more than okay to say, “I don’t even know what I’m feeling or thinking.” When your mind and heart allows you to come to the realization that you feel stuck and broken, it can begin to look at the idea that you need assistance. You don’t need permission from anyone to ask for guidance.
4. Reject ideas you’re at fault. During this time, it is easy to live near the figurative fault line. You may be ruminating on decisions that you made that put you in a vulnerable spot now. However, chances are you haven’t lived through a pandemic. And believing somehow you could have protected yourself and your family from your current financial or emotional status is highly likely to be false. Right now, one of your biggest assets is your mental health. Protecting it and getting help for it will enable you to perform well in the future.
5. Take small steps forward. When it comes to designing your day, it is important to remember that you can’t do everything all at once. Start with one small thing you can do to help improve your situation. This might be reaching out to a friend you know is a positive support or it may be not consuming alcohol. The small healthy steps can impact how you feel. These actions will remind you that you still have control over some things. For example, set a fifteen minute timer on your phone and do something productive during that time, like reading a book or getting physical exercise. This small interruption in your day can help you function better. It is how you start to change your hour.
Remember, depression can create a blind spot. With deep depression, it is not unusual for the person to be unaware they’re depressed. While you may be fearful to ask “How are you really doing?” or reach out, this can be the first steps for helping them.
Now, is not the time to practice emotional distancing, reaching out, showing you care, and asking someone “How are you really doing?” is one of the ways we can begin to heal from this pandemic.