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Take extra care of your mental health

You're preoccupied and having difficulty focusing. Your sleep isn't great. And you aren't eating as well as you know you should.

You are stressed, but who isn't these days?

"It's possible to become so used to chronic stress that we forget it's not normal," says Neil Schwartzman, M.D., an internal medicine physician at Lake Regional Clinic – Lebanon. "But just because you can't remember not feeling stressed doesn't mean it's OK or that there's no way out. There are ways to ease the pressure."

Recognize the signs of stress

How do you know if your mental health is suffering? Your stress has hit unhealthy levels if you are having:

  • Fearful thoughts about your health and the health of your family and friends
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in your eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A worsening of chronic health problems
  • A worsening of depression or other mental health conditions
  • A rise in your use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

Steps to help you feel better

Health experts offer the following tips for coping with these stressful times:

Wean yourself off constant news. This can be as easy as turning off the TV. You also may want to disable your phone's news alerts. (You can always turn them back on later.)

Check in with family and friends. Call them. Have a video chat. Meet with your book club using a group meeting app.

Get your facts straight. Learn more about the virus from reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov. Knowledge can ease anxiety.

Celebrate small wins. Keep track of moments of gratitude and joy.

Keep to healthy daily routines as much as you can. Whatever you do for self-care, keep up with those habits. They can help you feel more in control.

Move more. Exercise is a great way to improve both mental and physical health.

Practice mindfulness. Be in the moment, rather than worrying about what comes next. Breathe deeply.

Put free time to good use. Listen to an audiobook. Draw or paint. Make notes in a journal. Work in your garden.

If these tips do not bring improvement and you are concerned you or someone close to you has a mental health disorder, seek help.

"Depression and other mental health conditions are a chemical imbalance, just like diabetes or hypothyroidism," Dr. Schwartzman says. "Be sure to share concerns with your doctor."

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Alliance on Mental Illness

READY TO TALK?

Start with your primary care provider. Request an appointment at lakeregional.com/appointment. Virtual visits are available.

Find help online: Grief Support Group

Our private Grief Support Group on Facebook is for individuals dealing with grief, whether from illness, death, divorce, loss of a home or other difficult life events. Join the group for helpful tips and articles, as well as to connect with others who want to share support. Visit facebook.com/lakeregional and click the "Groups" tab.

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