May is Mental Health Month.

An often overlooked aspect of the Covid-19 pandemic has been how it has been extremely damaging to mental health around the world. For example, did you know that the World Health Organization reported that there was a 25% rise in the prevalence of anxiety and depression during the first year of the pandemic? I know I was very anxious about what was happening! How has your own mental health been over the last couple of years? Have you been paying attention to your own mental well-being amid all the personal and professional chaos? Here are a few useful tips I’ve seen in my recent readings on things you can do (or improve upon!) to help ensure you are doing your best to avoid mental problems:

  1. Focus on self-compassion before self-improvement.  Since you almost inevitably will encounter bumps along your road to improvement, recognize that fact upfront and show yourself some kindness, patience, and compassion.  Treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend, child, etc.  Practice self-care every day.
  2. Set reasonable personal boundaries – and then honor them.  Your boundaries become apparent when you realize that someone has crossed one when they say or do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, angry, and so on.  Think about what your boundaries should be and commit to them.  Boundaries create clarity and focus, enabling you to stay aligned with your values and priorities.  It is also important to share your boundaries in positive conversations with family members, friends, and coworkers.  At the same time, make sure you honor the boundaries of others.
  3. Practice forgiveness.  First of all, make sure you forgive yourself for mistakes you make.  Then, make sure you forgive others for their mistakes, too.  Why?  Forgiveness allows you to move on from stressful situations – not forgiving is often draining, and holding on to old hurts can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression.  Forgiving can be hard, but it is worth the effort.  In the hopefully rare case that you are not ready to forgive someone, consider ways to minimize any possible ill effects from that decision – for example, by talking to a trusted friend.
  4. Ask for help.  If talking with a trusted friend or family member isn’t working, there are other ways to improve your situation.  How about journaling about your situation or exploring online mental health resources?  Perhaps seeing a local therapist will help.   Don’t forget the hundreds of hotlines and support groups that are available 24/7.

These are good tips for all of us to follow.  Finally, do not forget to be aware of the needs of others – if you sense that someone is having trouble, carefully see what you can do to help in a private, compassionate way.

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