Your mental health is a priority; it is key in maintaining overall wellness.
As we find ourselves living through a global pandemic and everything that comes with this unprecedented situation, paying attention to mental health and its effect on wellness is more important than ever. But what can we do to manage issues like depression and anxiety as we deal with so many other challenges? We asked some experts to weigh in.
The physical impact
Mental health has a direct impact on overall wellness. In fact, according to Cassey Chambers, Operations Director at South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), mental health affects the whole body – from the way you think, act, behave and feel. Often, mental health produces physical symptoms such as headaches, sleeping problems, backaches and digestive problems. Cassey recommends incorporating regular exercise into your lifestyle, as well as eating healthy, drinking plenty of water and getting adequate rest – taking care of the physical body is an important step in taking care of the mind.
Jasmin Kooverjee, a Johannesburg-based psychologist, echoes this point: “The mind and body are definitely connected, and when we have unresolved emotions or repressed emotions, they tend to show within the body. We are like balloons. If you don’t stop blowing air into a balloon, it will burst, but if you take out air, the balloon stays safe. Similarly, if we keep experiencing emotions and don’t talk about them, they are stored in the body and eventually the body ‘bursts’ (i.e. showing up as physical symptoms). But when we start talking about and processing our emotions, our bodies start to heal.”
How to find support
For those who suffer from mental health issues, the importance of seeking support cannot be understated. And with COVID19 and physical distancing, and all the extra stressors that have come from these uncertain times — such as depression, stress, anxiety, trauma, isolation, financial strain, grief and loss — it is more important than ever to make sure that we look after our mental health. Cassey urges anyone who has noticed significant mood changes and an impact on daily functioning — if you can’t get out of bed, have no energy at all, are constantly down and even agitated or have feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, for example — to seek help from a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist. “Make it a part of your daily routine to reach out to friends and family. Having a sense of connection and a feeling of community is essential for hope and healing,” says Cassey.
Managing mental health at home
As we all try to adapt to our new reality, it can be difficult to manage stress and anxiety in a sustainable way. Cassey recommends maintaining a daily routine as much as possible, and staying busy and active: “Make a list that you can stick up on the fridge or in your bedroom. Make it public so the whole family can add ideas. When you run out of ideas, ask your friends and family for ideas. Do small things every day that you enjoy and help lift your mood.”
It can also be helpful to reduce the time you spend watching or listening to media coverage. Mute keywords that might be triggering on Twitter, unfollow or mute accounts, mute WhatsApp groups, hide Facebook posts and feeds if you find them too overwhelming; and follow only reliable sources to avoid fake news. “Ask yourself what you can control – your attitude, your thinking, your home, caring for your body and mind. Focus on these things.”
If you or a loved one struggles to cope with depression, anxiety, panic, grief or are experiencing suicidal ideation, please call SADAG Helpline on 0800 456 789. Alternatively, visit the SADAG Website on www.sadag.org or SMS 31393 and a counsellor will contact you.