UTAH

4 ways to promote better mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Apr 29, 2020, 6:44 PM | Updated: 6:48 pm
better mental health...
Surviving through a pandemic can exact a toll on our mental health. But experts say there are ways to handle the stress, and come out the better for it on the other side. Photo credit: Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — As confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus rise past 4,300 in Utah, many residents are dealing with stressors that may affect mental health.

“Right now, just using the word ‘pandemic’ or ‘quarantine,’ sets a lot of people off into this panicky space,” said Dr. Matt Woolley, a licensed clinical psychologist for the University of Utah.

People are finding their own ways to cope while being in quarantine but according to Dr. Woolley, this time could be a great opportunity to promote better health.

“There are so many things that people can be doing right now, that not just helps us survive during all of this, but helps us make this time the time we always wanted,” he said.

So, we’ve compiled a list of five ways to promote better mental health during the pandemic.

Listen to a guided meditation to help encourage better mental health

For thousands of years, meditation has been used as a way to help reduce stress and control anxiety. While many still consider the practice to be reserved for Buddhist monks, it is now more common in the United States than ever before.

Studies have also shown that clearing your mind for just fifteen minutes a day can have a sizeable impact on combatting depression and anxiety. According to Dr. Woolley, even those who have been skeptical about the practice, eventually see the benefits after trying it.

“If you doubt whether or not meditation is helpful for you … for one week, just listen to a guided meditation,” he said. “I’ve never had [a patient] come back at me and say that wasn’t at least moderately helpful.”

We’ve compiled a list of helpful resources about guided meditations below:

Practice mindfulness

While guided meditation can be used to help clear the mind and alleviate many stressors, practicing mindfulness can help you to be fully present.

By allowing yourself to be completely present (enjoying the moment you are currently in) you can begin to manage your stress better, focus easier, and could even boost memory according to the American Psychological Association.

Practicing mindfulness can be as easy as taking a seat, focusing your breathing, and concentrating fully on the moment. 

Whenever you feel that your mind is wandering, just focus on your breathing and return to that intense concentration.

For more information on practicing mindfulness, you can visit www.mindful.org.

Be active to promote better mental health

While we’re at home and adhering to social distancing practice, we might get a little irritable. And one way to fight that irritability is to be active says Dr. Woolley.

“People who are getting out and walking, riding their bikes, are less irritable,” he said.

Utah is home to countless opportunities when it comes to outdoor activities. Fortunately, whether it’s a hike up a canyon, going for a walk, or even gardening, there are many ways of staying active during the pandemic.

You can even perform various isometric exercises in and around your own home.

Here are a few tips on staying active:

  • Go for a walk
  • Clean out the garage
  • Pick up a new hobby
  • Ride a bike

Avoid group activities and high trafficked areas, however, to promote social distancing practices.

Focus on positivity

There is no denying the fact that the recent COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a toll on the American people. A recent poll from the American Psychiatric Association found that more than one-third of Americans say COVID-19 coronavirus is having a serious impact on their mental health.

Still, Dr. Woolley believes that there are positive opportunities that can come from distressing times like these.

“It depends on the lens you see the world with. Do you want to see it with that optimistic lens? If you do, you are definitely going to see opportunities right now,” Dr. Woolley said.

Finding the silver lining in stressful times can be a great way to help fight off negative feelings and natural stressors.

Here are a few ways to promote positivity:

  • Express your feelings
  • Help others
  • Find the positives in rough times
  • Be grateful for what you have
  • Don’t give up

For more resources and ways to help stay positive during the pandemic, you can visit the Mental Health America website here.

Listen to the podcast

For more information on addiction or if you or someone you know is struggling, you can find more information on Facebook, KSL TV, or from Use Only as Directed. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get major podcasts.

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4 ways to promote better mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic