If you suffer from a mental illness like anxiety or depression, chances are you have several tools in your toolbox to help you cope and get back to a healthier state of mind.
But what if you've been fine your whole life - until now - and you're wondering why the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic are turning you into someone you don't recognize?
First of all, some anxiety and depression are perfectly reasonable reactions to an unreasonable situation. But the good news is, the tool box is wide open these days for everyone to help themselves to a variety of tools and skills (including some like TIP, adapted from Dr. Marsha Linehan's work on DBT) to help them navigate these days.
One tool is to remember the acronym TIP, which highlights three skills people can use to decrease internal feelings of stress:
T is for temperature. When the heat of stress is overwhelming, cool off. There are many ways to do this whether by taking a cool shower, dip in a lake, or by covering your face in cool water. Exposing your face, especially around the eyes and nose, decreases your body’s stress response. The website nowmattersnow.org has a section on cold water that includes videos.
I is for intense exercise. Increasing oxygen flow in your body will help decrease stress. Exercise may be especially helpful for anyone feeling elevated anxiety due to stress. It may also be helpful, though can be difficult to initiate, when feeling sluggish or have “brain fog.” Any movement is helpful. To gauge intensity, you should be moving enough to notice an increase in breathing but still be able to carry on a conversation. Aim for 20 minutes or more. Exercising outdoors in green space can have added benefits to mood.
P is for paced breathing. You may have heard of “deep breathing’ exercises. Controlling one’s breath will help reduce the body’s fight or flight response. The key is to exhale for a count slightly longer than you inhale. For example, you might inhale for a 3 count, pause, and exhale for a 4 count, pause and repeat. Find a sequence that you are comfortable with and helps you relax. Visit Nowmattersnow.org and click the paced breathing section to learn more.
Additional Community Resources
There are many resources in our community to support mental health for self, family, in the workplace, and more. Stlouiscountymn.gov/covid19resources includes an extensive list of mental health resources and counseling options available. Three in particular worth highlighting include:
LetsTalkMN.com – supports access to local mental health resources
ThriveRange.org – free online therapy, coping skills, and crisis resources
NorthlandHealthyMinds.org -- Northland Healthy Minds is a collaborative of businesses, organizations and people in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin working together to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. Check out their COVID-19 Employer Resources.
For anyone feeling overwhelmed by stress to the point they have plans or thoughts of hurting themself or others, are suddenly finding it difficult to complete normal daily activities due to stress or other symptoms, or have an increase or change in symptoms such as mood, anxiety or panic attacks, hallucinations, or delusions consider using one of the following resources:
Crisis Text Line: Text MN to 741741
24 Hour Mental Health Resource Lines:
- Northern St. Louis County, (218) 288-2100;
- Southern St. Louis County, (218) 623-1800
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-723-8255