May is Mental Health Awareness Month…..

Do You Know Your Tools2Thrive?

While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health. The good news is there are practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase resiliency – and there are ways that everyone can be supportive of friends, family, and co-workers who are struggling with life’s challenges or their mental health.

This May is Mental Health Month we are highlighting #Tools2Thrive – what individuals can do daily to prioritize their mental health, build resiliency in the face of trauma and obstacles, support those who are struggling, and work towards a path of recovery.

One of the easiest tools anyone can use is taking a mental health screen at mhascreening.org when they need answers. It’s a quick, free, and private way for people to assess their mental health and recognize signs of mental health problems.

This May, we are also exploring topics that can help you build your own set of #Tools2Thrive – recognizing and owning your feelings; finding the positive after loss; connecting with others; eliminating toxic influences; creating healthy routines; and supporting others – all as ways to boost the mental health and general wellness of you and your loved ones.

When it comes to your feelings, it can be easy to get caught up in your emotions as you’re feeling them. Most people don’t think about what emotions they are dealing with but taking the time to really identify what you’re feeling can help you to better cope with challenging situations. It’s ok to give yourself permission to feel. We also know that life can throw us curveballs – and at some point in our lives we will all experience loss. It may be the end of a relationship, being let go from a job, losing a home, or the death of a loved one. It is natural to go through a grieving process. By looking for opportunity in adversity or finding ways to remember the good things about who or what we’ve lost, we can help ourselves to recover mentally and emotionally.

It also is true that connections and the people around us can help our overall mental health – or hurt it. It’s important to make connections with other people that help enrich our lives and get us through tough times, but it’s equally important to recognize when certain people and situations in life can trigger us to feel bad or engage in destructive behaviors. Identifying the toxic influences in our lives and taking steps to create a new life without them can improve mental and physical health over time. And we know that work, paying bills, cleaning, getting enough sleep, and taking care of children are just some of the things we do each day – and it is easy to be overwhelmed. By creating routines, we can organize our days in such a way that taking care of tasks and ourselves becomes a pattern that makes it easier to get things done without having to think hard about them.

For each of us, the tools we use to keep us mentally healthy will be unique. But we are wanting everyone to know that mental illnesses are real, and recovery is possible. Finding what work for you may not be easy but can be achieved by gradually making small changes and building on those successes. By developing your own #Tools2Thrive, it is possible to find balance between work and play, the ups and downs of life, and physical health and mental health – and set yourself on the path to recovery.

For more information, visit www.mhanational.org/may.

Living on High Alert: COVID-19, Fear, and the Brain Part One: Understanding the Emotional Response

During this unprecedented time of COVID-19 many are experiencing one of the oldest reactions, also known as an emotional response, known to humans, FEAR.

FEAR of going out in the public…

FEAR of being in close proximity of others…

FEAR of contracting and/or being diagnosed with COVID-19…

FEAR of the potential consequences of contracting and/or being diagnosed with COVID-19…

FEAR of potentially infecting others with the virus, unintentionally…

FEAR of being asymptomatic and not knowing one has the virus…

FEAR of family members, especially those who are elderly and/or have significant medical concerns, contracting COVID-19…

FEAR of losing loved ones, close friends, and/or co-workers due to complications from COVID-19…

FEAR of what will happen to the world and its people…

FEAR of not being able to pay one’s bills…

FEAR of losing one’s job…

FEAR of not having enough money to buy food and/or necessities…

FEAR of going to the store and there are no necessities left for one to purchase…

FEAR of just about any and every things that is associated with this bleak time in our country’s history…

So where does one’s emotional response, more specifically FEAR, to COVID-19 originates?

Fear, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is an unpleasant and often strong emotion caused by the anticipation of danger (Merriam-Webster, 2020). It often initiates in the brain and extends throughout one’s body making adjustments for what it considers to be the best way to defend oneself.

The most common defense is known as the flight or fight response. This response originates in the region of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is an almond shaped cluster of nuclei located in the temporal lobes of the brain has several functions.

One of those functions is the processing of and controlling one’s emotional responses. Therefore, the amygdala not only processes the fear one may experience but is also controls the fear being experienced, which has been associated with most emotional disorders.

Now I am sure you are trying to figure what all of that means and if I was you, I would too.

Ultimately, COVID-19 has triggered a fear response in the amygdala of many, activating several areas in their brains needed to prepare the flight or fight motor functions responses.

As a result of the amygdala experiencing a response to the fear associated with COVID-19, several bodily reactions can, have, and will take place.

Those reactions include the following: dilated pupils, increased breathing as the bronchi begins to dilate resulting in an elevated heart rate and the potential for one’s blood pressure to rise, sweating, inability to sleep and/or restlessness, goose bumps, digestive issues, and many more physical responses.

Fear, as an emotional response, can be very taxing on one’s. However, it is important to note the response is different among individuals.

While it may seem and even feel scary, fear is one of the most important emotions one can experience as it influences how one may respond to situations that could potentially cause harm to you.

How has the FEAR you are experiencing due to COVID-19 influenced your daily routine?

Be on the lookout of Part 2: Understanding One’s Cognitive Response as a Result of their Emotional Response in the coming weeks!

References:

Amen, D. G. (2000) Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness. New York: Times Books.

“Fear.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear. Accessed 27 Apr. 2020.