May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this year’s campaign, You Are Not Alone, reminds people that now, more than ever, the mental health community is coming together to make connection possible during a climate of physical distancing.
Many people are understandably feeling scared, anxious and stressed during this COVID-19 pandemic. “It is valid to want to talk to someone about your feelings,” says Rachel Rohaidy, M.D., a psychiatrist with Baptist Health South Florida, and yet social distancing has created barriers to obtaining support from family, friends and coworkers. If left untreated, anxiety and depression can worsen and have long-term effects on your health. The good news is, mental health counseling is more accessible, convenient and affordable than ever before, thanks to telemedicine.
Telemental health services are not new, but their usage and acceptance are growing. Services such as online therapists are perfectly suited to this pandemic situation because they provide people with access to vital treatment without increasing risk of infection.
Through Baptist Health Care On Demand, Dr. Rohaidy and other experts are helping people cope with stress, loneliness, reduced autonomy and financial concerns from the comfort and safety of their homes. To speak to a licensed behavioral health professional through a secure live video chat, patients can download the Baptist Health Care On Demand app on their smartphone, tablet or computer, enroll by completing a brief questionnaire and then make an appointment via the app.
Baptist Health Care On Demand is also a good option for people who wish to move their routine in-person therapy sessions online. “Almost all mental health issues can be addressed via telemedicine,” Dr. Rohaidy added. “There are so many people we can reach who otherwise would not get help.”
When is the right time to seek professional help? According to Dr. Rohaidy, signs of mental distress include fighting with loved ones, bursts of anger or annoyance, crying spells, feelings of panic and excessive substance use. In children and teens, parents should watch for aggressive behavior, withdrawal and self-isolation, difficulty concentrating and complaints of aches and pain. “If you or a loved one cannot function or formulate thoughts and plans to move forward, then it is time to reach out to a mental health specialist,” Dr. Rohaidy advised.
In many cases, self-care strategies can help people improve their mental health and increase resiliency. Dr. Rohaidy recommends implementing the following strategies that benefit your body and your mind:
- Maintain a regular routine. Keeping a consistent schedule for meals, self-care, chores, exercise and work can help you feel more in control.
- Create a work-life balance. Set limits on your time to work and do not check your email during your designated downtime.
- Establish priorities. Too many commitments can be overwhelming, so only commit to those that bring you happiness.
- Exercise several times a week. Jogging, walking, lifting weights and doing yoga can lead to emotional wellbeing.
- Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day.
- Avoid emotional eating. Unhealthy foods can lead to unhealthy emotions and negative feelings. Being mindful of what you eat can help ease anxiety and moodiness.
- Nourish your soul. Set aside time to do activities you find relaxing, like walking, taking a warm bath, meditating, reading a book, listening to music or enjoying nature.
- Curb your media exposure. Limit yourself to one hour a day of screen time to avoid an overload of negative news stories that can exacerbate anxiety.
- Nurture your spiritual life.
- Be positive. Reframe your thinking about quarantine and social distancing from negative to positive. Realizing that your actions are keeping you, your family and your community healthy can be very empowering.
- Keep an open dialogue. It’s okay to let children vent, but through positive, reassuring conversations with your loved ones, you can build trusting relationships.
- Stay connected. Although you may be physically separated from family and friends, you can be emotionally connected through emails, texts, phone calls and FaceTime. This is a very good time to foster and strengthen relationships.
Although following these tips can help many people manage mental health conditions, everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. If you would like to schedule a private visit with a licensed mental health specialist, download the free Baptist Health Care On Demand app or visit BaptistHealth.net/CareOnDemand. Use code WELLBEING to get $10 off your consultation, valid through December 31, 2020.