May is Mental Health Awareness Month

By Carolina Boyd, Communications Associate

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Observed since 1949, the event helps to promote mental health education and support with the goal of decreasing the stigma that is so often associated with mental illness. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many Americans. With the number of vaccinations slowly rising and a push to return to some sense of “normalcy” there still remains a lingering feeling of anxiety for many.

In any given year, one in five adults in the United States experience a mental health condition. Approximately 46.6 million adults in the United States face the reality of managing a mental illness every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health conditions like anxiety and depression have only increased during the pandemic.

A recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that 49 percent of adults reported feeling uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends; Even 48 percent of those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine reported concerns.

Here are a few ways to care for your mental health as things open back up:

  • Practice mindfulnessAs you navigate a more open, social world, continue to take time for yourself. Be sure to avoid critical self-talk and practice self-compassion.
  • Listen to your brain. Spend time being aware of your comfort level in different situations. Recognize if situations and people either drain or give you energy.
  • Take things slowly. Be mindful of feeling too much pressure to do everything and see everyone all at once. Find a pace that feels right for you.
  • Commit to non-digital self-care. Most of us significantly increased our screen time during the pandemic. Find meaningful ways to spend time away from social media like reading, volunteering and/or exercise.
  • “Cope ahead.” Have a plan in place that includes ways to reduce stress. Work on implementing these techniques by envisioning various post-pandemic activities and rehearsing the thoughts and actions you would implement to cope effectively.
  • Know when to seek professional help.  Talking to a qualified behavioral health professional can help you gain a fresh perspective in finding effective solutions for easing back into your post-pandemic routine.

The pandemic was traumatic for everyone. It is okay if you do not automatically rebound back into your pre-COVID life. Experiencing a mix of feelings and reactions is to be expected. So be kind to yourself and those around you as we transition back to our daily routine.