Let’s face it. The last two years have been tough for many. As a therapist, I’m aware of how many people in our community have been struggling with mental health issues.
Depression has loomed large during the pandemic, anxiety and stress are high, sleep problems are common, and some have felt it challenging to keep their relationships on solid footing. On a more positive note, a lesser stigma on and increased awareness of mental health issues has encouraged more people to reach out and seek therapy.
If you’re dealing with a mental health issue going into the new year, now is a good time to address it. Below are approaches you can take to having a mentally healthier 2022!
Some people think of depression as a psychological issue, like the lack of motivation or chronic sadness. Some think of it as a physical medical problem, like lethargy and sleep disruptions. The truth is that it’s both.
Depression is psychological and physical, and it takes a trained professional to help you out of it as quickly as possible. We often begin by increasing exercise, discussing stressors and events in your life, recommending supplements and trying to understand your experience with depression. Depending on how bad it is, medication can help support the healing process.
Depression can be genetic or due to childhood or other traumas, so it’s more complex than simply being in a funky mood. If you feel depressed, let a therapist work with you to get your energy, focus and mindset back on track.
The pandemic has been hard on many relationships. We don’t have our usual outlets, some people are arguing more while being cooped up and we may have restrictions on traveling or seeing our friends. Pandemic life has put many face-to-face with the reality stage of relationships where you have to deal with differences of habits, perspectives, and communication patterns or they deal with you. One tip is to frame your relationship problems as a “we” problem and talk about how you can improve it as a team, not just as individuals on opposite sides of an issue.
You can also let your guard down a little, be vulnerable about how hard things may feel and share emotions you might normally keep to yourself. That approach elicits tenderness and care and helps disable criticism and defensiveness.
If you’re having trouble generating a culture of love and support, a trained relationship therapist can help you set common goals and practice bridging your differences. Couples therapy is fun and playful and gives you tips and skills that make you stronger. It’s a great gift to give to a relationship you value and want to keep around.
World events, politics, inequality, storms, the pandemic, supply chain issues, loss of work and even the local housing market have been causing many to feel more anxious than usual. Anxiety is an uncomfortable, higher-than-usual activation of your nervous system, and it has negative psychological and physical impacts. It’s like feeling under threat, but chronically, and it sends too many stress hormones into your body without a chance to recover.
Luckily, there are interventions to help alleviate anxiety beyond mindfulness apps and relaxation strategies, which are great but sometimes not enough. A therapist can help you identify the sources of stress in your life, help you be honest with yourself about what you might need to do to address them and help develop a plan of action to reduce your stress and anxiety. If the anxiety rises to the level of a mental health disorder, there are additional strategies to bring it down to normal, like psychotherapy, creating emotional outlets, understanding where it’s coming from and lightweight medications if needed.
Mental health issues are common. There’s no need to hide them anymore, as our society has become more understanding and aware of their prevalence and of the importance of reaching out for help. Licensed therapists are trained to support you to alleviate depression, anxiety, relationship problems and more, and in exploring life purpose, identity, transitions and more. Reach out and develop a relationship with a therapist who can help!
About the Author
John Howard, LMFT is a therapist at PRESENCE, Austin’s leading mind-body clinic specializing in mental health, physical health, relationship improvement and living with a strong sense of purpose.