The surging pandemic and recent attack on the United States Capitol has increased the levels of discomfort, stress and anxiety felt by so many in our country. In fact, 78% of adults in the U.S. site the pandemic as a major stressor and 60% found the increasing number of stressors affecting Americans overwhelming in 2020 according to the American Psychological Association.
While recent data shows that Saratoga County residents’ mental health has improved over the past few years, this trend is likely changing. As civil unrest continues to unfold and the pandemic worsens, many are finding their day-to-day lives disrupted by uncertainty. Additionally, the winter months have brought shorter and colder days, limiting people’s time spent outside coupled with increased levels of stress and loneliness from isolation. While 2021 brings new hope of a COVID-19 vaccine, its slow distribution has made many people weary and look to new ways to cope.
As a mental health professional, I regularly recommend coping mechanisms and mindfulness practices for stressful and uncertain times like these. For those in Saratoga County and across the state, there are four tips that are key to coping with stress, feelings of depression, and anxiety:
1. GET LOTS OF SLEEP
Anxiety and stress can keep our minds racing throughout the night. Before going to bed, choose a regular time to turn off all electronics and allow yourself to unwind prior to falling asleep. This should help to leave you feeling refreshed the next day.
2. LIMIT YOUR CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL INTAKE
Caffeine can cause restlessness at night or jitters during the day, while alcohol tends to heighten emotions. Ditch these beverages and replace them with water. When you are stressed or sad, you tend to sweat more and cry. Both these responses can lower your hydration levels, so it is important to drink more water to replenish your system.
3. DO THINGS THAT BRING YOU JOY
Every day, dedicate some time to a leisure activity or a hobby that makes you happy. Step outside, exercise, spend time with those in your immediate household, listen to music, or watch a light-hearted TV show or a movie. Often the best way to combat stress and sadness is by occupying your mind with other activities.
4. VIDEO CHAT OR CALL YOUR LOVED ONES
Schedule time to speak with those closest to you. For a more personal connection, utilize video chat. While this will not replace seeing friends and family in-person, it will offer comfort and an opportunity to catch up with those you are not seeing on a regular basis.
During times of uncertainty, it is important to find time for self-care. Be sure to prioritize your physical and mental health. By practicing these four self-care routines daily, you can decrease stress and increase your health, which will trickle into other aspects of your life.
If you need more support or if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, reach out to your primary care provider, mental health professional, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) or NY Project Hope’s Emotional Support Helpline (1-844-863-9314).
Additionally, if you are an MVP Health Care member, you can book a same-day appointment with a health professional through Gia at GoAskGia.com or mvphealthcare.com/goaskgia. Members can also call 1-877-GoAskGia (1-877-462-7544) or the MVP Customer Care Center at the phone number listed on the back of the MVP Member ID card.