Tuning in to your mental health

stressed mother while working from home

If you have been feeling sad or blue, you are not alone.

If you have been feeling scared or frightened, you are not alone.

If you have been experiencing a range of strong emotions, you are definitely not alone.

Nearly half of Americans surveyed said the coronavirus crisis is negatively impacting their mental health, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Anecdotally, many of our patients have mentioned undergoing a wealth of highs and lows, frustrations and increased stress in the wake of the global pandemic.

With the uncertainty of what is to come, it is not surprising that many people today are experiencing depression, anxiety and stress. And for those who already suffer from these conditions, the weight of new worries can feel especially heavy.

Your mental health impacts your physical and emotional well-being and can influence how you show up as a parent, friend, neighbor or colleague.

If you are ever concerned about self-harm or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a trained provider or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Likewise, if stress or strong emotions are keeping you from sleeping or performing daily functions, please seek help from a healthcare professional.

Parents looking to find some extra release or to instill more healthy habits can consider the following tips for bolstering mental health during challenging times:

  • Make your mental health a priority. It can be hard to address your own needs, especially if you are juggling work and childcare, but it is nearly impossible to care for others when you are running on empty. Reserve time for yourself each day and focus on nutrition, exercise and sleep to help with depression or anxiety symptoms.
  • Social distancing does not have to equate to social isolation. Take a walk with a friend (or a “walk and talk” over the phone with a faraway friend) or take advantage of technology to connect with loved ones.
  • Maintain a routine. Many of our schedules are out of whack, but we can still develop and maintain comfortable routines, including getting up and going to bed around the same time each day, enjoying healthy meals at regular times, exercising often and making time for favorite activities. Kids also respond positively to routines in most cases.
  • Minimize the scroll. It is wise to stay informed, but too much news and social media can be overwhelming even in the best of times. If you are tempted to look at your phone with every free second, consider allocating certain blocks of time for catching up on the latest news.
  • Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Some days it is difficult, but if you can think of three things you are grateful for each morning or evening — things as simple as a hot cup of coffee, bright rays of sunshine and 20 extra minutes of sleep, for example — you can shift your mindset into a more positive frame. Include your kids in this activity to build up your family’s well of gratitude.

There is a lot going on in the world right now, and it can be a lot to process. That’s why it is so important to realize that you are not alone. It’s likely you have friends or family experiencing the same emotions and concerns, so it can help to start by talking with them. Don’t be afraid to have deep, real conversations about what is going on in the world and with you personally.

When you prioritize your mental health, it is easier to exercise the patience and perseverance you need as a parent.

Jennifer Knapp is a nurse practitioner who sees patients at the Edina location of Clinic Sofia, a local OBGYN known for its personalized approach to women’s health care. Learn more at clinicsofia.com.