Whew... 2020, where do I even begin...? Honestly, it's been an emotional roller coaster with no end in sight. The amount of things that we need to process is ridiculous. From the threat of WW3 back in January, Trump being Trump, to corona virus changing the way we live, a failing economy, and highlights of police brutality becoming more visual; many of us haven't been able to give our brains a break! It feels like you literally have to prioritize what to stress about, and when to stress about it. And all of this doesn't even include the day to day stress that we were dealing with before 2020 even started.
Personally, I've struggled with my mental health at times this year, so I reached out to one of my close friends from grad school, Josee' Muldrew, M.A. (make sure you put some respect on her name), who obtained her Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine in 2019, and currently works as a school-based mental health therapist for a non-profit organization in the metro Atlanta area. Sis knows her stuff, okay!
So I asked her for her advice during these hard times, and she shared some of her top tier insight with all of us!
"Mental health is critical during unprecedented times like these, when we see multiple issues compounding at once. In the midst of a global health pandemic, racial revolution, and economic recession there are multiple factors that can contribute to the development or exacerbation of mental health illnesses including anxiety, depression, trauma, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and the list goes on. Given our current lack of control and uncertainty surrounding current events, it is essential now more than ever to take care of our mental health and to seek a state of internal peace and calmness."
Now I'm no stranger to how stress can manifest itself in different ways. Many of you may have felt tense from stress before, or have felt tightness in your chest from anxiety from time to time, but what about long term impacts on your health and well-being?
"Poor mental health can literally permeate through the entire body and start to impact our physical wellness, ability to function day to day, and create negative long-term health impacts. When we experience anxiety-provoking times, such as the ones we’re living in now, we can start to notice increased tension in our bodies, restlessness, digestion problems, higher blood pressure levels, increased heart rate, and more identified cases of hypertension, specifically when thinking about Black individuals. It can become easy to allow the manifestation of poor mental health to lead to isolation, lack of motivation or interest in completing daily tasks or activities, extreme fatigue, and sometimes an increase or decrease in appetite. All of these indications of impaired mental health functioning can be implications of how our mind also impacts our body and the way we are able to show up in the world each day. It is important to pay attention to any symptoms of mental health issues you may be experiencing and to be mindful of changes you may notice in your body."
Good to know I'm not the only one feeling drained! But then I started to wonder what some real solutions might be. And I'm not talking about quick fixes like too much wine, or weekend getaways I cant really afford.
"I think the best advice I can give regarding protecting mental health during this time is first and foremost,
1. Be gentle with yourself. Understanding that we are living in the midst of what some call a revolutionary period, it is normal to see shifts in mental health and overall wellness. Extending yourself grace and being patient with integrating the necessary coping skills that can help you manage feelings during this time, will in and of itself aid in protecting your mental health.
2. I would also encourage people to get creative with how they are taking care of themselves and creating structure and routine in their daily lives. Designate time to go outside, take a walk, engage in mindful eating, journaling, exercise, yoga/meditation, and other small activities that allow you to experience some level of peace.
3. The practice of setting boundaries is also critical during this time. Give yourself permission to not engage in conversations consistently that may be overwhelming or harmful, limit your exposure to messaging and media that may be triggering, and surround yourself with supportive people who make you feel seen and heard."
Josee' also noted that since many of us are still trying to physically distance ourselves to protect our physical health, there are many online resources you can use and telehealth services available for your mental health!
If you, or someone you know is struggling with their mental health during these times, below are are some resources designed to help support you.
Georgia Crisis and Access Line (GCAL)
GCAL is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year to help you or someone you care for in a crisis
CARES Warm Line - Substance Abuse Challenges
Call or Text Every Day of The Year
8:30AM – 11:00PM
SAMSHA’s National Helpline-
Meditation Apps: Relax Melodies, White Noise
Social Media: Dive in Well, Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy is My Jam