Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Monique Lynch | Focus on healthier, more resilient ‘new normal’ for mental health

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2020 | 12:06 AM
Monique Lynch
Monique Lynch
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Just like you, all of us are tired of COVID-19, and that is just the plain truth. As a result, we switch the television channel or radio station if there is any talk about COVID-19; we avoid the news like a plague; we quickly scroll past any social media posts relating to COVID-19; we refuse to read any material or literature as we think that it’s doing more harm than good; we hide from friends and family members who have suddenly become pandemic journalists, and even go as far as mute their statuses and snooze their posts on Facebook for 30 days.

Some of us ask ourselves what other new developments could there be, anyway, other than social distancing, washing our hands a million times, and wearing these uncomfortable, stifling masks?

The truth is, there seems to be no quick return to our lives after this pandemic and many of us, including myself, are at the point where we just want all this ‘thing’ to be over so we can continue on with our lives.

But are we really waiting for a return to normal, or are we ready to build something different? Are you ready to focus on a healthier and more resilient ‘new normal’?

What does that difference look like?

We as individuals, and collectively:

1. Taking the initiative to understand COVID-19 and the measures to take to prevent the virus’ transmission, and the effects on our mental health, can help us adjust.

2. Focusing on how to boosts our mental health and using it to empower our communities.

3. Improving our mental health hygiene so we can help to create a new normal for our mental well-being in the future.

An opportunity for a new normal for mental health

There is virtually and literally no disease, illness or injury that is not supported by good mental health. Therefore, how can we boost our mental health in the COVID-19 era to minimise the impact of the virus and the ‘social distancing’ in our lives, and to develop a healthier and more resilient new normal for the future? Will we finally pay serious attention to the link between stress regulation, toxic environments and our health and well-being? And how do we put it all together?

We came up with three ways to improve our mental hygiene and boost our mental health for a healthier and more resilient new normal, and these are:

1. Investing in our mental health, both collectively and individually, it pays long-lasting dividends. Make your mental health a priority and be intentional about it, because even if the Government had all the mental health facilities on par with excellent intervention and preventative programmes, no one can do that part for you. Your mental health status is your responsibility.

2. Focus every day on what you can do and take action – no matter how small. Reduce your stress levels, take a break when necessary, read a book, have your ‘me’ time, practise self-control, good time management, work on addressing your flaws, get a daily dose of physical exercise, relaxation and vitamin D. Call that relative or friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Practise being more mindful and supportive of those around you. We can all learn to be more flexible and accept what we can do with the present, rather than what we cannot do.

3. Discover the resources that are available on mental health. Surely, COVID-19 has brought vast attention to the growing resources available online. Let us learn to explore and master the full scale of opportunities for meaningful social connection, mindfulness, self-care, distance learning, telemedicine and beyond.

There is no time like the present to review our own use of technology in general and mental health technology in particular. Take a break from social media platforms and tune into information that is more substantial, useful and practical.

Online resources will not miraculously grant wellness, sleep, or put an end to poor mental health, but they are tools that we can learn to use with wisdom. This can be used to transform how we tackle mental health going forward.

We are in a moment of ‘increasing revelatory tension’ – for the first time for many of us, we are seeing how the ‘old normal’, in terms of both physical and mental health, can take a backseat in the prioritisation of daily life.

We have an opportunity before us to establish an even stronger and more resilient global community, one that practises both physical and mental hygiene. Now is the time for individual and collective action to shift to a healthier new normal for all.

Dr Monique Lynch is a programme coordinator for the WHO/PAHO Collaborating Center for Development of Nursing and Midwifery in the Caribbean at the UWI School of Nursing, Mona, a mental health advocate, author, entrepreneur, youth ambassador, and social practitioner. Send feedback to monique.a.lynch@gmail.com.