How we can all take care of our mental health during COVID-19 

 

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has brought big changes to our day-to-day lives. From work to school to social activities to the global economy, so much has changed since the crisis began – even our community’s mental health.

 

This is something we’ve never seen before, and that’s scary – understandably. And it’s made a big impact on levels of stress, anxiety and uncertainty so many in our community are feeling. In the last month, calls to our 2-1-1 helpline requesting help with mental health were nearly 120% higher than this time last year.

 

It shows that we’re all in need of a little extra help managing stress, anxiety and all the challenges we’re facing.

 

For some, it’s learning to do work or school from home. It could be the stress of losing a job and not knowing how to cover basics like food or rent. Some of us are seeing changes in our relationships while spending more time with family at home. Some of us are feeling lonely and isolated because of social distancing.

 

While we’ve been working with other nonprofits on the frontlines, we’ve seen these challenges and increased burdens. They’re getting calls about essential workers worried about finding a safe place for their kids to spend the day while they’re at work. Families who used to rely on school lunches are having to make tough choices about spending what little they have on feeding their kids or paying rent. Seniors are running low on essential supplies but don’t have transportation to go to the store, and it’s dangerous to risk exposure in public.

 

People who were already vulnerable are now at even greater risk. At the same time, many people need help for the first time. These new pressures and stresses make focusing on mental health even more important.

 

Sometimes, it’s hard to recognize these emotions for what they are. But they show up in physical ways: changes in sleeping or eating habits, body aches, trouble concentrating or staying interested in hobbies.

 

It looks different from person to person, but in general, it’s common to just not feel like yourself in a time like this.

 

If you experience any of these signs for more than a few days at a time, it might be time to reach out for help. Talking about our struggles and worries can have a major impact. It helps us identify what we’re feeling and why, making it easier to come up with strategies to help. And, it makes us feel heard and not so alone.

 

“People think, ‘if I avoid this, if I don’t think about this, it will go away,’” said Kristin Cowart, senior project director at the St. Louis Mental Health Board. “Talking about and processing things you’re feeling – anxious or worried or scared or lonely – actually helps you feel better. It creates a place to process what’s going on and not hold onto that.”

 

It’s a key step in taking care of our mental health, which is vital during this stressful time. Often, when we’re already stressed, it’s hard to remember to take care of ourselves, but it’s how we empower ourselves to support the people we love through their challenges.

 

If you would like help managing stress and anxiety, encouragement or just someone to talk to, we’re here for you. With United Way’s partnership with the St. Louis Mental Health Board and Behavioral Health Response, you can get connected to a mental health professional 24/7.

 

To get connected, dial 2-1-1 and press 1. We’re here to listen and help.

 

Even though we’re all experiencing different challenges, one thing is clear: None of us are alone. This is new for all of us, and we’re all going through it together.