‘The unknown creates a lot of unease’

Mental health professionals provide tips to manage anxiety

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It is natural for the unknown to create a lot of distress.

“Accept anxiety as an integral part of human experience,” said Vincent Atchity, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado. But “the key is not to let anxiety get the better of us.”

There are “age-old tricks” people can do to support their mental health and “ease the anxiety you and your friends and loved ones likely feel” in the midst of this public health crisis, Atchity said.

He suggests to stay in the moment and go about your ordinary, daily tasks. For example, take care of the routine chores such as washing the laundry or cleaning the dishes.

“By focusing on the small things,” Atchity said, “we can re-instate normality.”

Being physically active can also help, Atchity said.

“One of the best things that people can do for their mental health is get outside and enjoy the sunshine,” Atchity said. “The sounds and sights of the natural world, and the sunshine, can help put the drama of our human world in a healthier perspective.”

Also, avoid consuming “toxic amounts of information about things over which you have no control,” Atchity said.

One way to do this, Atchity said, is to choose a time of day “when you feel strong” enough to absorb 20-30 minutes of the local and global updates on the crisis from a reliable source.

Some of us may also begin to experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, Atchity said. This is a time when we’re presented with an opportunity to make ourselves most valuable to others, he said.

“The vast majority of us as human beings require each other,” he said. “People end up cheering each other up. We can bring out our better selves in the face of a crisis.”

Even if it means “companionship from a distance,” Atchity said, such as going for a walk with your neighbor while on opposite sides of the street or making a call a longtime friend.

“With isolation, we have to be mindful of people who struggle with anxiety” and depression, said Zaneta Evans, program manager of Healthy Living at the Mental Health Center of Denver. “Keep in mind that we’re all in this together.”

Outreach can become a cycle of giving and receiving, she added.

“People are accustomed to sending a quick text,” Evans said. And while that’s good for some, she added, “others may need to hear your voice.”

Phone calls and video chats are great, but Evans points out that we have not always had — and some people don’t have access to — this modern-day technology to keep in touch.

“Be creative and think outside of the box,” Evans said.

One idea, she said, is to send a postcard or letter through the mail.

Something to remember is that overall wellness is a holistic approach that includes both mental and physical health.

“The unknown creates a lot of unease,” Evans said. “And people will have varying ways to handle this. It’s important to understand and accept everyone’s different way of coping.”

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