By Craig A. Smith
During this time of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Studies have shown that individuals who have mental illness generally also have physical issues that are not being attended to. Our physical and mental wellness go hand in hand.
Our bodies react to stress, which is defined as any change in either the internal or external environment. Stress is always happening, but how we handle our stress will determine our well-being. Individuals handle stress differently. People who do not manage their stress may be easily irritable; lose sleep, appetite, or energy; feel anxious or depressed; or use drugs or alcohol to cope with everyday problems.
How can you take care of your own mental health? The answer is simple: Take time for you. People will often respond that they can’t find the time. But guess what, all you need is 15 minutes. It may not seem like much, but it is enough time to calm your mind. There are plenty of things you can do in 15 minutes.
- You can take a brief walk through your neighborhood.
- You can enjoy a hot beverage.
- You can meditate or focus on your breathing.
- You can read an article in your favorite magazine.
- You can pray.
- You can take a hot shower or bath.
- You can take a nap.
- You can take a drive and listen to the radio.
The best place to take your 15 minutes is away from work. However, there is nothing wrong with taking five minutes during the workday to stretch your legs, take a couple deep breaths, and refocus. Also, it is easier to take your 15 minutes around the same time every day.
My time out for me is immediately after work. I get into my car, take a couple deep cleansing breaths, and grip the steering wheel for approximately five seconds. I do this to release stress and to end my work before going home. On my way home, I like to listen to music and sing. I had to train myself to do this, but after a while it became natural.
If you find that 15 minutes is not enough, adjust accordingly. If a 15-minute nap does not help you feel energized, then nap for 30 minutes. The point is that you are taking the nap because it is what you need. If you miss quality time with friends and family, make it a point to call or Facetime a person on a set date and time. Having social interaction is just as important has having alone time.
Please remember all of the other important ways to take care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wear a mask, wash or sanitize your hands frequently, keep six feet apart, get enough sleep, and eat healthy foods. Most of all, remember to take time for you.
Craig A. Smith RN, is Director of Nursing for the Behavioral Health Institute at St Charles Hospital in Oregon, OH.