Cynthia Telles on Ways to Strengthen Mental Health Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

LOS ANGELES, CA / ACCESSWIRE / May 7, 2020 / The global coronavirus pandemic and the dramatic social and economic distancing put in place to curb it, are causing increased stress, anxiety, and emotional challenges for millions of people around the world. Fear of contracting the virus or passing it to our loved ones is understandable. That fear, coupled with the severe disruption to everyday routines – caused by government-imposed shelter-in-place orders and business closures, alongside individual social distancing and the resulting isolation – are a challenging combination for most people and can prove particularly stressful for those living with mental health conditions.

“It is oftentimes the uncertainty around what to expect that is so much more stressful than knowing exactly when a bad thing is going to affect you,” said Cynthia Telles, PhD, Community Health Committee Chair for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Boards of Directors. “For most of us, the level of uncertainty we are facing has never been higher in our lifetimes. For people with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions these can be especially trying times.”

Among the ways to cope with this stress and improve resiliency is to create or maintain schedules and routines. Those undergoing treatment should maintain their care plans, keep appointments with their care providers where possible, and adhere to medication schedules.

At the same time, given all the restrictions and closures related to the pandemic response, most people will need to build flexibility into their routines while maintaining as much normalcy as they can.

Kaiser Permanente’s experts offer some excellent advice anyone can use to adapt and flex through the disruption to daily activities:

  • Get outside. Take a walk, maybe up a hill or near water, where you can reconnect with the larger world beyond your walls.
  • Build in exercise time. Be creative with what you have around the house to modify your workout; use online tools to exercise with others whenever possible.
  • Get enough sleep. A normal sleep schedule is essential to maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
  • Stay connected. Be sure to make time each day to communicate via phone or video with the important people in your life.

The integrated health plan, hospital and provider system has also began providing its members with access to myStrength, a digital self-care app, as part of the health provider’s growing set of digital wellness resources designed to help support emotional health.

The myStrength app offers multiple ways to help people engage in self-care activities, from very brief mindfulness activities, to meditation and mindful stretching, to months-long programs that can help secure lasting behavioral changes. It also includes a section of COVID-19-specific resources, including a quarantine toolkit – with topics like how to deal with loneliness, and help with ways to avoid misuse of drugs and alcohol during a crisis. Kaiser Permanente members can go to kp.org/wellnessresources and click “Get started” to register and begin exploring myStrength.

“Engaging in intentional, thoughtful, and informed self-care is a critical way to strengthen our total health, and build resiliency during this disruptive, stressful time,” said Cynthia Telles, a nationally recognized psychologist. “Resilience is different from avoiding stress or seeking shelter, and it’s about more than just brushing off challenges: think of it as adapting, bouncing back, as overcoming, so we can be stronger the next time we face adversity. This is the tool we all need more of right now.”

Kaiser Permanente’s national leader for mental health and wellness, Don Mordecai, MD, has shared several ways to strengthen and build resilience, including as part of a recent article in Fast Company, where he contributed to the offering of six ways to build resiliency.

Mordecai and others noted that strengthening resilience does more than help mental health, it has physical health benefits, as well. Stress can raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, resulting in symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, and stomach issues. Being able to manage stress better can limit its impact on physical health.

Kaiser Permanente offers several tools and resources to build resilience, manage stress, and practice self-care at FindYourWords.org.

For more information about Kaiser Permanente’s community health work, review the organization’s most recent Community Health Needs Assessments at https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/static/health/annual_reports/chsnapshot2018/ or reach out to John Nelson at John.E.Nelson@kp.org.

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente

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