It seems that every time we check on the news, we see the newest headlines about some event that either makes us “deep-belly sigh” or hang our head in sadness.
In the field of disasters (as well as many other fields), mental health is of great importance to your overall health and wellness. Part of DisasterDoc’s mission is to address the mind, body, and spirit, and to promote wellness and overall health of each.
In disasters, it is important to address not only the physical health of victims, but also their mental and spiritual well-being. Your mental health can drastically alter your ability to process and cope with the results of a disaster. The overall process of coming to terms with what has happened can take longer. You may not feel like doing much, or like nothing will improve. This can lead to physical feelings of malaise or even depression. In fact, there is a strong link between mental health and physical health.
While we may not personally be in a crisis at this exact moment, we all are coping with things like coronavirus, the election cycle, or even personal matters.
Regardless of what the issue may be, we can greatly improve our overall well being using a few of these tips.
PUT DOWN THE PHONE
This one needed to be said outright. In the current age of technology, we all have what is close to 4 apps on our phones where right now in this exact moment we could quickly access the news from. Some of you have immediately thought of those apps, haven’t you? Could you get to that app using muscle memory without looking at your phone? Do any of those apps also contribute to political discourse openly? We all can do ourselves a huge favor and put down the device or phone down to give ourselves a break. In fact, most phones even have features that can limit when you have access to your phone or limit access to certain apps.
The issue isn’t that you’re reading the news. The issue is you constantly have multiple outlets to present potentially upsetting or disheartening news to you regularly. Some of them will even notify you of news stories pertaining to your interests whether you would like to see them or not. Applying this back to disaster management, we can reference the risk equation. Risk = Hazard x Exposure.
Limit the risk to your mental health by limiting exposure time (or frequency) with the negativity surrounding those specific apps.
REFRAME YOUR OUTLOOK
Reframing is when you allow yourself to develop a new conceptual or emotional outlook on a specific event or statement. The goal is to adjust the “frame” of what it is from a negative perspective to a more positive perspective.
Here’s a perfect example. “I got furloughed at work because we closed down during the pandemic, so now I’m worried about money.” This is presented in a negative form. This works to focus only on the negative aspect of the idea. When we decide to reframe this statement to “My job shut down because of the pandemic, but I really don’t like my boss anyways…!” or reframing it as “Wow, I am going to have a lot more free time coming up.”
While we identify that there is potential sadness or struggle as a result of the furlough, we are also able to identify (and most prominently) that there is a sort of “silver lining” to the situation. By looking at the situation with a more positive outlook, it allows your brain to process general input into that same outlook. You work to train your brain by continually seeing the positive aspect in situations. Through that training you can almost always find some positive to focus on in a negative situation.
The more positivity you surround yourself with, the happier you will feel.
Physical activity has shown to have a profound effect on not only physical health but mental health as well. We all have a need to expend energy. We all generally are stuck inside all day (pandemic or not). Why not take the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the sun on a nice day? Why not take that 30 minutes we all spend trying to find a new show on a streaming service to take the dog for a longer walk or do an outdoor workout?
Being stuck inside a single spot for an entire day can be draining altogether. Being stuck inside a single spot for an entire day because of a global pandemic and in the midst of a stressful election season is another story…Give yourself an opportunity to get into some new scenery. Take some deep breaths of fresh air, and most importantly give yourself a chance to relax.
During uncertain and troublesome times, mental health becomes even more important. We tend to disregard it and get caught up in work.
Take a few moments each day to consciously acknowledge your mental health status.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional counselor if you are particularly struggling.
We are all in it together. We can get through it and come out better on the other side.