May is National Mental Health Month, and while one in five Americans live with a mental illness (MI), the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone. Not only is the crisis triggering people who already struggle with mental illness, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported spikes in anxiety and depression even among people who haven’t previously had mental health issues. So now is the time to take extra care of ourselves and our loved ones.
A mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood, and may affect their ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis. Mental illness can include anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others. Each person will have different experiences – even those with the same diagnosis. Unfortunately, due to stigma and (sometimes) a lack of self-awareness, only 41 percent of the 43.8 million Americans in this country seek help.
Thankfully, there are a number of organizations that exist to offer support and resources to people living with MI, as well as their loved ones. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides a number of excellent sites that can help. Additionally, the CDC has an entire section dedicated to information on how to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the meantime, here are six tips to be kind to your mind during the COVID outbreak, whether you live with a diagnosed MI or not:
- PAUSE. Breathe. Notice how you feel.
- TAKE BREAKS from COVID-19 content.
- MAKE TIME to sleep and exercise.
- REACH OUT and stay connected.
- FIND AN APP. Rootd is an excellent example of an app that specifically targets anxiety and panic attacks.
- SEEK HELP if overwhelmed or unsafe.
And remember: This too shall pass.