July is Mental Health Awareness Month and as we endure the third wave of Covid-19 in South Africa, there has never been a better time to focus on mental well-being.
The stress, anxiety and isolation resulting from yet another lockdown are taking a toll on everyone. Experience tells us that this too shall pass, but in the midst of infections among family, friends and colleagues, it can be difficult to not let the worry and strain get you down. Your mental health is as important as your physical health and the two are very closely connected.
Here are four things you can do to protect your mental health as we pass through the third wave:
Avoiding crowded places and visiting friends is essential right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out in other ways. It is important, even essential, to connect with your family and friends on the phone and on video calls. Sometimes just hearing another voice on the line, or seeing the face of a favourite person over Zoom can make all the difference. We need each other more than ever right now, so stay in touch. You never know what difference you could be making to the mental health of the person you reach out to.
One of the best ways to stop negative thoughts in their tracks is to keep yourself occupied. While quiet moments are crucial for emotional and mental wellbeing, brooding on the state of things is a quick road to depression and heightened anxiety. It’s hard to know if feeling down at the moment is depression or just your response to the way we are forced to live, but either way, keeping busy physically will also keep your mind busy. Read that book that’s been sitting next to your bed for months, water your plants, clean out a drawer, bake something healthy or watch a comedy – anything that makes you feel good.
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It’s impossible to understate the benefits of meditation. And it’s no longer just for tie-dye-wearing hippies! Meditation is a great way to calm your thoughts and escape the chaos of the world. There are loads of free videos, podcasts and apps that can help you learn how to meditate. What you will learn is that meditation makes you so much more aware of your negative thought patterns. If you take the time to build up a meditation practice, you will reap enormous benefits physically and mentally.
Mindfulness is one of the best ways to centre yourself in the present moment, which is what we all need right now, believe it or not. When you live mindfully, you live in the moment without focusing on regrets for past actions and fear of the future. It is breathing in and out slowly, calmly acknowledging the sensations of your body and your surroundings. It’s taking a much-needed pause that you can take as often as you need.
When to seek help
You must seek the advice of a doctor or trusted friend or family member if your anxiety, low mood or stress are impacting your ability to function normally. If you feel hopeless or depressed for any extended period, reach out for help. It may come in the form of a stress-relieving chat, medication, therapy or a combination of these things. And remember that there is no shame in needing help.
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