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May is Mental Health Month - Coping During COVID-19

In these unprecedented times, we can expect to have a lot of mixed feelings. While it’s true that we may experience many strong and some unpleasant emotional responses to the current health situation, there are many things we can do to help ourselves feel safer and in control of ourselves. May is Mental Health Month, and Mercer County is presenting information weekly to help people cope. Last week's topic was Owning Your Feelings. The following information is provided by the Mercer County Division of Mental Health and Mental Health America.

Create New Healthy Routines

Routine and ritual are restorative. Our brain wants activity that is predictable so we can relax our nervous system. Remember that our activities, thoughts and mood are closely linked so to change your mood, change your activities and/or your thoughts.

FAST FACTS

• When it comes to diet, sleep and exercise, having good, strong routines is linked to improved mental and physical health.
• People with more daily routines have lower levels of distress when facing problems with their health or negative life events.
• It takes an average of 66 days for a behavior to become automatic (a habit), but for some people, it can take as long as 8.5 months. Don’t give up!

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

Create a routine that is right for you. Some parts of the day may present more challenges than others. Healthy routines should include eating a nutrition-rich diet, exercise and adequate sleep. No two routines will be the same and your routine may even vary slightly from one day to another.

Make swaps. Think about things you do during the day that aren’t so healthy and swap them with healthier behaviors. Substitute a brisk walk for sugary snacks to keep your blood pumping and endorphins flowing.

Make time for things you enjoy. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, set aside time to do something you find fun or relaxing. It will release chemical messengers in your body that are good for your physical health.

Make time to get and provide warm, comforting, social support. We can stay socially connected while we remain physically distanced. Remember, call the MentalHealthCares NJ Hope and Healing line for free emotional support: 866-202-4357.

Working and learning from home.
• Confine your workspace to a specific area in your home so your work and learning doesn’t intrude on your personal needs. This will help to focus your mind and increase your productivity.
• Control sound as much as possible.
• End the work/school day with clear boundaries by putting away electronic devices and work tools at the end of the day. Set specific hours in the day for work/school.
• Have a morning or evening check-in with colleagues or friends to reduce social isolation and provide structure and support.

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