How to Be Proactive About Your Mental Health
Steps you can take to protect one of your most valuable assets.
Cecilia was recently diagnosed with late-onset postpartum depression. She thought she was just “COVID sad” until her therapist pointed out that she thought something more significant was happening and that Cecilia might need an antidepressant to help regulate her brain as her body transitioned through hormone fluctuations.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Americans are struggling with mental health challenges now more than ever. During the pandemic, about four in 10 adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, up from one in 10 adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019.
It can be difficult to distinguish between COVID sadness and when there’s something more significant, like a mood disorder, at play. Discovering what you’re dealing with often requires the help of a licensed therapist or doctor. But here are a few tips for taking care of your mental health, to the degree that it’s within your power.
Take things off your plate.
When you feel stretched thin between obligations, you may feel like you lack choices. But career experts say that you always have a choice, even if it’s somewhat countercultural. You can choose to go to bed with unread emails in your inbox, not to give your baby a bath tonight, to order fast food, to tell your boss you need an extension, or to say no to a new project that comes up.
Also keep in mind that the consequences of saying no are relative; it’s OK to disappoint a coworker because you need rest. “If the person you’re disappointing knew that their request was pushing you over the edge, I bet they’d encourage you to take care of yourself,” says Gabby Lennox, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.
Assemble your toolkit.
When it comes to self-care, career experts recommend that you experiment with different ways to rest and rejuvenate. “Maybe you watch reruns of Ted Lasso when you need to reconnect with kindness and have a good laugh. Maybe you take a warm bath with relaxing music when you need to turn off your brain. Maybe you invite friends over for a home-cooked meal to feel creative and connected to your community,” Lennox says.
But many mental health symptoms and challenges aren’t within your control. If you need help, reach out to a mental health expert and other members of your support system.
Stave off wintertime loneliness and isolation.
As the days get shorter, people tend to hunker down at home. For many people, winter is an isolating time of year. Fall is a good time to set some new goals for the coming season, like taking an evening class with a group of people rather than spending nights alone watching TV. Embracing the cold instead of resisting it can also help, so have fun trying new activities such as winter sports, sledding, or building snowmen.
Seek out therapy.
“We’re all human, all have emotions, and all need support sometimes. It’s incredibly helpful to have someone in your corner who’s dedicated to listening to you for an hour,” Lennox says. However, therapy is expensive and can be hard to find due to the surge in mood disorders in the wake of the pandemic.
Luckily, many companies have expanded their employee assistance plan offerings to provide access to on-call, free providers through hotlines, and there are now online services like BetterHelp that can connect you to a licensed therapist virtually and help make therapy more affordable.
- Find a therapist.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 if you need help immediately.