Mental health: Tips and resources for navigating uncertain times

It is okay to not feel okay right now. This pandemic is traumatic. Many of us are struggling.

Our minds and bodies tend to shift into a state of hyper-vigilance when faced with trauma. Hyper-vigilance helps keep us safe and alive; it’s the mechanism in our brain that reminds us to wash our hands, wear masks, and social distance. This state, while important, can also take a long-term toll on our mental and physical health.

Validate your feelings

One exercise we can do to ease the effects of hyper-vigilance is pausing and validating our feelings. Set aside five to ten minutes each day to identify your feelings. Are you experiencing grief for your old life? Fear that you or a loved one will contract the virus? Worry that you or a family member will lose their job? Guilt because you still have a job? Anger that this is happening? Sadness because someone you know is ill or died? Happiness to serve your community?

Sit with those feelings. Don’t judge them; they belong. Allow yourself to experience them. By allowing yourself to experience your feelings, you will allow your body and mind to process them, which is an important step in maintaining resiliency during trauma.

Reframe your experience

While it is important to validate your feelings as they arise, there are also ways you can change some of the feelings you are experiencing. One of these ways is reframing your experience.

Reframing is a powerful tool we can use to help find relief from difficult feelings. Reframing is based in the understanding that thoughts create feelings. Rather than denying or avoiding feelings, reframing asks you to adjust some of your thoughts through a more positive lens so that some of your feelings may eventually improve.

To do this, try changing the words you use to describe your reality to yourself and others. Reframing your experience does not mean telling yourself and others the pandemic is not hard. It means, whenever possible, being mindful of the language you’re using. For example, instead of staying you are “stuck at home,” you may try saying you are “safe at home.” Or, instead of focusing on the ways you are not safe, you may try focusing on the ways you are keeping or can keep yourself safe.

Research shows that using catastrophizing language, even during a catastrophe, can have a negative impact on mental well-being. Research also shows that adjusting some of your language through a more positive lens can improve mental well-being, even during a difficult period. Reframing asks you to experiment with this skill. Even slight improvements in feelings can decrease hyper-vigilance and increase our capacity to persevere.

Mental health resources for King County employees

Balanced You has resources King County employees can access to support your mental health as we move through this together. Many of our resources listed below have updated their offerings to include coronavirus-related content.

  • Counseling via telehealth: Regence and Kaiser therapists and other healthcare providers, including doctors and physical therapists, can be accessed from your home, via telehealth. If you have a provider, ask them if telehealth is available. If you don’t have a certain type of provider and would like one, contact your insurance company.
  • Making Life Easier and Employee Assistance Program: Making Life Easier (MLE) provides many free counseling and referrals, credit and legal consultations, mortgage assistance, childcare resources and referrals, and other daily living supports. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides free counseling to help King County employees navigate workplace stress.
  • Better Choices, Better Health: Better Choices, Better Health is a six-week, online, small-group based workshop designed to improve the lives of people living with long-term health conditions, including anxiety and depression. This program is free for King County employees and dependents.
  • Mindfulness: Balanced You staff have partnered with Mindfulness Northwest to develop a series of mindfulness videos. The five videos, ranging from two to 14 minutes, cover topics including breath awareness and gratitude and are available on-demand so you can practice mindfulness any time and anywhere that fits your schedule.
  • Mental Health Resource Guide: View this guide for additional King County and community-based mental health support resources.

For questions, more information, or suggestions, contact balancedyou@kingcounty.gov.

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