Mental health may be biggest challenge of COVID-19 lockdown

Thursday, May 21, 2020

There are bright spots associated with the coronavirus pandemic for those inclined to look for them, namely the chance to step back from our normal, hectic lives and be with our families or spend time reading, meditating, gardening, crafting, decluttering — all those things we’ve never had time for before.

But even if you’ve been successful in adapting to the new -- let’s hope temporary -- “normal,” you’ll likely find yourself experiencing stress or responding in ways you later regret.

Mental Health Awareness Month couldn’t have arrived at a more appropriate time, and mental health shouldn’t be neglected as we worry about our physical health.

“The impact of isolation can take a toll on your mental health,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS.

“When you feel challenged, continue to focus on what you can control. Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger,” she said.

“Don’t let perceived stigma prevent you from asking for help.”

Do any of these sound familiar?:

-- Fear, irritability, sadness and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones

-- Changes in sleep or eating patterns

-- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating

-- Lack of energy and motivation to carry out your day-to-day activities

-- Worsening of chronic health problems

-- Worsening of mental health conditions

-- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

-- Try these strategies:

She urges Nebraskans to take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

-- Have fun and be creative with activities.

-- Take care of your body.

-- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.

-- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.

-- Exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.

-- Avoid overeating, alcohol and drugs.

-- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.

-- Keep a regular schedule to lessen worry and anxiety.

-- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

-- Practice mindfulness.

-- Stay connected through video calls with loved ones and friends.

-- Participate in virtual faith-based communities or other groups that may be supportive to your well-being.

Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you need it.

You can find a behavioral health provider near you by visiting https://bit.ly/3eiPb6X

Or, a number of hotlines stand ready to help:

The Nebraska Family Helpline - 1-888-866-8660

SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Hotline -1-800-985-5990

The Nebraska Rural Response Hotline - 1-800-464-0258

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255.

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