Michigan Association of Health Plans

Coping and Hoping: Mental Health Tips for Trying Times

Even before 2020 began, many Americans of all ages had mental health conditions and alcohol or drug issues that weren’t getting the attention and care that they deserved.

Now, six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, three months into a major social justice movement, two months away from a national election and with school starting, hurricanes blowing, wildfires burning and the economy slumping, it’s a fair bet that many more people are struggling with mental health concerns.

That’s why Michigan Medicine assembled a panel of experts for a recent webinar to offer concrete steps that might help, and links to further resources for helping to manage overall well-being.

This recording has a wealth of tips, from breathing exercises to family activities to advice about the kinds of healthy lifestyle choices that can bolster mental health and keep alcohol use in check. The U-M Department of Psychiatry also offers a wide range of resources and helpful links in its COVID-19 Toolkit.

Expert tips for managing mental health and substance abuse concerns? 

  • If you’re feeling overly stressed, depressed, anxious or concerned about your alcohol use – or someone close to you is showing such signs – you don’t have to start with a specialist. In fact, primary care providers such as family doctors, general internists, pediatricians and primary care nurse practitioners, are trained to handle many mental health symptoms, says Jill Schneiderhan, M.D., a U-M family medicine doctor and mental wellness specialist.

    So just as you would start by contacting them for a new physical symptom, don’t be afraid to contact them about changes to your mental health and substance use. That includes a persistent low mood, finding things less enjoyable, and anxious thoughts that intrude on your everyday life.

  • Several of the experts focused on the things you can do to improve your mental state, including more regular bed times and wake times, cutting out screen use in bed, keeping up social connections even if it’s via video chat or phone calls, eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, engaging in a hobby, spending time outside, and engaging with art and music.
  • Elizabeth Duval, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in the U-M Department of Psychiatry, offers some specific breathing exercises and mindfulness activities that anyone of any age can do, almost anywhere.

This article was originally featured in the University of Michigan Health Blog, read more here.