Mental Health Awareness Month, observed each year during May, is an appropriate time to remind ourselves that mental health is vital to our overall health. 

Everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, it is especially important to check in on how you are doing emotionally and psychologically, says clinical psychologist Serina Neumann, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and EVMS Wellness Officer.

“The uncertainty, stress and isolation these days have helped us all to be more honest with ourselves and others about how important our mental health is for our functioning,” Dr. Neumann says. “It has also helped us to understand the importance to reach out for support and use tools to take some action.”

One of the first things you can do, Dr. Neumann says, is to “check in” on your mental health status.

Mental Health America offers quick, free and private online mental health screening tools. Nearly five million people have used their screening program.

“You can use the screening information to start a conversation with professionals, family members or friends, which can help reduce the time spent suffering,” says Dr. Neumann, who encourages everyone to complete a screening. 

“Once you understand the ways you are responding to stress and anxiety may not be healthy, you can get the right support and tools you need in place to help you thrive and be more healthy mentally and physically,” she says.

Here are some guidelines Dr. Neumann recommends to help you manage your stress levels.

  • Limit media coverage over COVID-19. Stay informed, but have healthy limits.
  • When washing your hands, think of what you are grateful for.
  • Try to stick to a schedule and be sure that includes staying connected with others, observing a regular sleep schedule, and staying physically active.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, focus on blowing the air out of your lungs and tell yourself, “it is normal to be feeling anxious during this stressful time.” 
  • If you feel like a problem or task is too big, break the problem or task down into smaller, more manageable steps. Do it one step at a time.

Other suggested resources: Arianna Huffington on How We’ve Changed the Way we Think about Mental Health.