Throughout the month of May, the Chickasaw Nation is encouraging mental health awareness and treatment. Mental health is an essential part of self-care and overall well-being.
A key component of maintaining mental health is recognizing how many other aspects of life it can affect, according to Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Family Services Jay Keel.
“Mental wellness is as vital to all of us as heart, respiratory and all aspects of health,” he said. “Thankfully, under Governor Anoatubby’s leadership, the Chickasaw Nation places a high priority on services, which focus on strong mental health for our people.”
The Chickasaw Nation regularly offers mental health services options to all American Indians. These include the Chickasaw Nation’s Outpatient Therapy, Psychosocial Unit, Medical Family Therapy, Prevention and Behavioral Health Services. Each specializes in care provided to patients.
For more information about mental health services provided by the Chickasaw Nation, visit Chickasaw.net.
Below are tips and additional resources for maintaining mental health wellness.
Care for Yourself
Maintain good health habits to the best of your ability. Good nutrition, adequate sleep and regular exercise will support your immune system and mental wellness. Allow yourself plenty of grace when the additional demands of health care interfere. Calmer times will come, and you will be able to keep routines once again.
Protect Your Time
Protect your mental wellness and your valuable time by limiting your exposure to news, social media and nonproductive conversations about COVID-19. When possible, use your time to focus on hobbies, positive connections with people who are important to you and engaging in calming pastimes like walking or doing yoga.
Allow Your Routines to be Flexible
Use flexible routines and focus on the things that you are able to control. There may be days where you cannot control your schedule. Instead, make yourself a menu with a variety of options for things that are good for your body, brain, relationships, spirituality or any other areas important to you. Set a daily goal for how many items you want to do in each category, and celebrate your efforts to meet these goals. Adjust as needed.
Begin a Daily Gratitude Practice
Make a point each day to notice and talk about or write down three things that made you feel grateful. Research shows that this can reduce risks for depression or anxiety disorders by activating important feel-good pathways in your brain and training your brain to spend some time outside of stress-response mode.
Get Regular Support From People You Value
This is important even when you feel fine or do not think that you are experiencing extra stress. Use technology to your advantage to keep lines of communication open or seek new connections. Be brave about reaching out for help and trying new things to bring you more support. There are even some counseling apps you can try.
Caring for Your Family
Find new, creative ways to connect with your family. Social distancing precautions may limit your ability to hug, cuddle and be physically close to family. Use technology or write and post notes and pictures to each other. Be sure to laugh together often. Tell stories to one another. If you have children, use a special stuffed toy for them to hug while you embrace another toy and pretend that you can feel these hugs from each other. Search online for “brain breaks” you can do with your children from a safe distance.
Talk About It
Create space for conversations about the coronavirus, changes and feelings. Empathize with difficult emotions and provide lots of reassurance. Whenever possible, help yourself and your family focus on positive aspects of the situation, such as the way people are helping each other. Talk about positive ways your family might change, like being more creative or discovering new foods you like.
Use calendars or charts to help with routines and perspective. Adding your work schedule to a calendar can help your children know what days you will be away from home. Start a list or drawings of things that you and your family will do together when the situation stabilizes. This will help you and your family look forward to and be able to count on returning to the things that are missed.
People who find themselves feeling particularly anxious or agitated should try taking some slow, deep breaths.
Dr. Paul Emrich, Chickasaw Nation Under Secretary of Mental Health Services, explains, “One trick is to teach yourself what we call ‘7-11.’ That is, breathe in through your nose for seven seconds and then breathe out of your mouth for 11 seconds. Repeat that several times and you’ll naturally feel your body relax. It will help you limit stress.”
Inhaling and exhaling slowly helps focus on breathing and redirects thoughts, which allows the body to decompress and reduces stress.
“Practicing breathing techniques can be very calming,” he said. “When we breathe correctly our body naturally will relax. One way to do that is to practice slow, deep breaths and your body will respond to that.”
Relaxing tension in the body is also helpful. Stretching limbs, the neck and back is a good practice. Be mindful to take care of any sort of muscle, bone or joint conditions that might be aggravated.
Clearing the mind and focusing on something positive can also help. Taking a few moments to meditate, pray or simply sitting in a quiet place can give one a sense of peace.
Maintaining a routine is extremely important. Continue to go to bed and get up at the regular time. Eat meals normally. Normal routines, including bathing, brushing teeth, changing clothes and getting enough sleep, should be continued as normal. These routines help people stay aware of the passage of time and can reduce feelings of being stuck or confined.
Stay connected to others. People can still have driveway conversations with friends and neighbors as long as they maintain a safe distance. If unable to visit friends and relatives in person, make a point of calling or text messaging regularly.
Applications like FaceTime, Skype, Google Duo, Google Hangouts and Zoom allow multiple people to join in a single video call. This makes it possible for extended family or groups of friends to come together at once.
Get out of the house, if possible, but always in a safe manner. Fresh air and physical activity are natural stress relievers.
A free mental health checkup is available atMHAScreening.org.
If you or someone you love is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at (800) 273-8255.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers an assortment of tips for handling stress and coping during COVID-19. Visit CDC.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.