May is Mental Health Month: How to Find Peace and Reduce Stress

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has been incredibly stressful for people all around the world. As concerns about our safety, employment and sobriety bubble to the surface, it’s important to be especially mindful of our emotional well-being. Each May, we observe Mental Health Month, which reminds us to slow down and look inward. Take this opportunity to prioritize your mental health, improve your coping abilities and renew your commitment to recovery.

Observing Mental Health Month

Since May of 1949, Mental Health America (MHA) has led the nation in a yearly observance of Mental Health Month. Through media, local events and educational efforts, MHA has worked to spread the word that mental health is something which everyone should value.

Statistically, one in five people will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime. All of us face challenges that could impact our mental health, from acute trauma to battles with substance use disorders. This year, the theme of Mental Health Month is “Tools 2 Thrive.” You can visit the Mental Health America site to download their 2020 toolkit, which includes practical tools that everyone can use to boost their mental well-being and increase resiliency. We’ve expanded on some of these tips below.

Find the Silver Lining

Positivity is a key factor in maintaining your mental health, especially in times like these. The benefits of an optimistic mindset include increased immunity, improved stress management, lower reported levels of depression and even increased lifespan. Read our most recent blog post for tips about reframing your experiences, reading uplifting news stories and finding joy in the little things.

Own Your Feelings: Everyone Reacts Differently

One of the first steps to a healthy mental state is accepting that every person reacts to each situation differently. None of these reactions is right or wrong, just as they cannot be classified as good or bad. How you respond to a worldwide event like COVID-19 or a personal trauma can be influenced by your background and community. For example, older people, those with pre-existing conditions, children, teenagers and first responders will probably be more strongly affected by the outbreak and its accompanying stressors. These people may require more support in the days ahead, and should not hesitate to ask for help.

Luckily, those who have participated in a program of recovery have equipped themselves with crucial tools to navigate this time. Remembering messages from the recovery rooms – such as H.A.L.T., which we covered in a previous blog post – can be invaluable in protecting your sobriety during self-quarantine.

Create Healthy Routines

Perhaps the most applicable piece of advice from Mental Health America is to prioritize the creation of a healthy routine. Even in our daily lives before COVID-19, juggling work, housekeeping, cooking, exercising, shopping and childcare felt overwhelming. Today, all of these activities have been disrupted and confined to our homes, and it may be tempting to let sleeping, eating and self-care fall by the wayside.

Research shows that well-established schedules for sleeping, eating and exercising are linked to improved mental and physical health. People with these routines in place report lower levels of distress when facing obstacles like health problems or negative life events. It’s worthwhile to start laying the groundwork for these habits, even if it takes a while for them to become automatic. Start small, choosing one thing each week to focus on. Adding these little changes to your existing habits can help you to integrate them into your routine. Plan ahead and reward yourself for each little victory. With the proper approach, you can create a healthy routine that sticks.

Mental Health Month 2020: Be Kind to Your Mind

We would like to leave you with this message. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a public service announcement regarding mental health during COVID-19. Their main message is to “be kind to your mind” in the days ahead. They provide five clear steps to achieving this goal:

1. Breathe. Notice how you feel.

2. Take breaks from COVID-19 content.

3. Make time to sleep and exercise.

4. Reach out and stay connected.

5. Seek help if overwhelmed or unsafe.

We understand the stress surrounding these uncertain times. If you or someone you love needs extra support during COVID-19, we’re here to help. Contact Cumberland Heights for more information about treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health concerns.