Tips on mental health maintenance during a pandemic

Mia Concepcion- Staff Writer

The world is in a state of emergency. Basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a fatal helicopter crash. The inspiring Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, died after secretly fighting a 4-year long battle with colon cancer. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg succumbed to metastatic cancer just weeks away from the election. Outbreaks of political protests are happening nationwide on behalf of numerous African-Americans who were unjustly killed. “SAY THEIR NAMES” is now one of the most commonly used phrases to remember all who were taken from us prematurely and unfairly. These occurrences have impacted mental health nationwide.

Statistics have shown the dramatic rise in mental health concerns during this pandemic. According to surveys conducted by the CDC, United States adults, youths, and racial minorities have experienced higher levels of anxiety, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, and anxiety/depressive disorders since the outbreak of COVID-19. Target populations at risk for developing these disorders are essential workers, minorities, and adult caregivers. Survey results published in June reveal that Hispanic and Black respondents reported elevated levels in contemplating suicide (18.6% and 15.1%) compared to their white counterparts (7.9%). Seventy-five percent of youths in the age bracket of 18-24 have been accounted for at least one mental health or behavioral health symptom. Given this data, mental health intervention is more than necessary to prevent the downward spiral (or plummeting) of our current cognitive state.

The conditions of this world have caused mental health maintenance to take a backseat for many. However, the mind is an entity that cannot be neglected. Some suggestions to practice mental health preservation include finding stillness, moving your body, avoiding social isolation, and journaling.

Being still is one of the best practices to protect your mental health. Being still means taking part in quiet reflection and examining the root of your thoughts and feelings through journaling, deep breathing, and meditation. Rather than pretending they don’t exist, it’s important to ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way?” Doing so will bring an awareness to what triggers those emotions. and mindful actions to refrain from indulging in them.

Engaging in physical exercise is a beneficial stress reliever during trying times. It does not have to be limited to simply lifting weights or going to the gym. It can be any activity that brings enjoyment and doesn’t feel like exercise, such as dancing, hiking, yoga, bike riding, or roller skating. Physical exercise has also been proven to moderate weight gain, regulate blood pressure and help in developing positive coping skills. Rather than feeling tempted to engage in emotional eating, try counteracting those feelings by moving your body.

Eva, a senior molecular biology major at Hampton University says that exercising has served as a healthy distraction for her. “It’s like my alone time and a chance for me to distract myself from everything else going on.”

Social interaction is recommended during this global crisis. Although social distancing guidelines have been enforced, it is still possible to remain connected to friends and family with technology. “I’ve been trying to combat social isolation during the pandemic by going outside as much as I can and engaging in activities I haven’t done in awhile,” says Arlee Taylor, a senior psychology major from Silver Spring, Maryland.

Technology has given us the privilege to be engaged with one another through social media platforms such as Instagram, Zoom, and Facebook. Rather than wallowing in negative emotions, release it by telling someone. Burdens are not meant to be carried alone, which is why establishing a supportive community is crucial.

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