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RISK IN CONTEXT

Understanding the Status of Your Mental Health

POSTED BY Julio Garcia-Villalon Tuesday, 06 October 2020

These are undeniably stressful times but too much negative thinking can be debilitating. If constant vigilance is causing constant worry, you may be putting your physical and mental health at risk. Persistent pessimism is associated with a number of health problems, including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and sleep and mood disorders. Considering these consequences, it is critical to understand how COVID-19 is affecting your health and well-being.

How Have You Been Feeling?

Researchers have found that repeated exposure to trauma can wear us down, leading to cumulative stress and anxiety. Cumulative stress, in turn, can cause a wide range of physical and emotional responses, including increased irritability, decreased motivation, and changes in eating or sleeping habits, or unexplained aches and pains. Given the amount of suffering and stress the pandemic has caused, it is important to get a read on your psychological well-being. Self-assessments like this one can provide quick insights, but the safest thing to do — especially if you have been experiencing any notable physical, mental or emotional changes — is to talk with your doctor or  mental health care professional. If your organization provides an employee assistance program, that could be an additional source of support.

What Are You Doing to Take Care of Yourself?

A growing body of research shows that we can improve our health and wellness through self-care. Unfortunately, many people do not have a regular self-care practice. In one recent study, over a quarter of survey respondents fell into this camp. It is never too late to start, though, and small changes can lead to big differences. There are many different ways to take care of yourself. In fact, the best self-care plans are based on a holistic review of your health and wellness, considering the various aspects of your life — for example, your home life, social life, work life, spiritual life — your values and character strengths, and the unique assets and personal resources you can draw on to cope with current challenges.

What Is Helping You Cope?

Psychologically speaking, bad is stronger than good. Researchers have found that we tend to pay more attention to what is going wrong rather than what is going right. This tendency can prevent us from noticing those people or practices that have been sustaining us during the pandemic. As a result, we might be overlooking our personal strengths, the power of our social network or other sources of resilience. 

Take the time to count your blessings. Gratitude can have a positive impact on our happiness and well-being (but note that gratitude has a limited impact on serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety).

How Can You Grow From This Experience?

Post-traumatic growth can manifest itself in different ways. Some people may develop an increased sense of their personal strength after trauma. Others may come to realize they have new possibilities in their personal or professional life. Some people may build closer social relationships during times of adversity. Others may develop a new spiritual perspective or a deeper appreciation for life. Based on this research, you may want to consider how you have “grown” over the past few months. Has the pandemic increased your sense of strength and fortitude? Has it clarified any values or prompted any desire for change at home or at work? Have you deepened any friendships or gained any wisdom? Reflecting on these types of questions may help you turn the challenges of the pandemic into sources of personal growth and positive change.     

Experts warn that the pandemic will continue to cause outbreaks until a vaccine is developed and disseminated, and that could take months. That means life may not return to any semblance of normalcy until well into 2021. By reflecting on your emotional response to recent events, developing a self-care routine, and identifying sources of support and opportunities for growth, you can prepare yourself for what will likely be a tumultuous six to 12 months.