Mental health is an essential part of overall health and well-being. Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being and focuses on a person's psychological state. In addressing mental health currently, a broader approach is often taken through behavioral health. Behavioral health is an umbrella term that incorporates mental health, psychiatric care, marriage and family counseling, substance abuse prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery, behavioral management of chronic diseases, and behavior change. Your behavioral health helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. It is important at every stage of life, from early childhood and adolescence through older adulthood.
It's important to remember that a person's behavioral health can change over time, depending on many factors. When the demands placed on a person exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health could be impacted. We are familiar with the common cold and the flu, but the outbreak of COVID-19 is new and presents a situation that none of us could have predicted. It's extremely contagious and has resulted in business closures, social distancing, and quarantine, which has all disrupted our daily lives. It is more important now for you to pay attention to your behavioral health during this time of isolation and uncertainty as you may be experiencing physical, behavioral, or emotional symptoms of stress, such as having trouble sleeping or feeling overwhelmed. COVID-19 may be stressful for many people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions, along with a variety of other symptoms in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. Sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful. When you share accurate information about COVID-19, you can help make people feel less stressed and make a connection with them. Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. Visit the CDC for different ways on how to cope with stress during this time.
Behavioral health is critical for personal well-being at every stage of life. Mental disorders are real and can create disabling health conditions, which can also have an immense impact on individuals and families in the United States and internationally. Mental disorders vary widely in type and severity. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in America experiences a mental health problem. It is important to remove any stigma attached to problems with mental health as psychologists now understand that most of these issues are a result of stressors people are experiencing in their lives. Preventing mental health issues and promoting good behavioral health involves actions to create living conditions and environments that support mental, emotional, and behavioral health and allow people to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles.
- Be true to yourself. Remember to treat yourself with love, kindness, respect, and avoid self-criticism at all costs. Set aside time to do the things you love or find a new hobby. Maybe you'll find yourself enjoying crossword puzzles, gardening, dancing, playing an instrument, or learning another language. Just know, it's important to value yourself.
- Take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Physical health can also improve your mental health. Eat healthily, avoid smoking, drink plenty of water, exercise daily, and get enough sleep.
- People who have strong connections to family and friends are generally healthier than those who lack a support system. Find your support group within your family or friends and make a plan or seek out new activities where you can connect with new people like a club, class, or support group.
- Support your community! Instead of focusing on yourself, try volunteering your time and energy to help others. Helping someone in need will help you feel good about doing something tangible.
- Stress is a part of life. Practice good coping skills such as exercise, take a nature walk, play with your pet, or try journaling. Remember to smile and find the humor in life.
- Quiet your mind. Try meditating or doing yoga. Relaxation exercises can help improve your state of mind and outlook on life.
- Set goals for yourself. What do you want to achieve academically? Professionally? Personally? Write down a list of steps needed to accomplish each goal. Aim high! But also, be realistic, you don't want to over-schedule yourself. As you progress toward your goal, you'll enjoy seeing a sense of accomplishment and self-worth in yourself.
- Routines are good. They make people feel efficient and help enhance feelings of security and safety. But a little change now and again can perk up a tedious schedule. For instance, alter your jogging route, plan a road-trip, take a walk in a different park, change up the decor in your home, or try a new restaurant.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. People tend to use alcohol and other drugs to "self-medicate," but in reality, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems.
- Get help when you need it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. Treatment is effective. People who get the necessary support they need can recover from mental illness and addiction and can go on to live a full and rewarding life.
Community Care Physicians offers access to licensed mental health counselors and clinical social workers as Behavioral Health Consultants (BHCs) in most of our practices. These Behavioral Health Providers assist our patients with mental health issues, substance use issues, daily and chronic stress, coping, behavior and lifestyle change, and the behavioral management of chronic disease. Visits with a BHC are typically 30 minutes and focused on symptom improvement and coping skills. Our BHCs are adapting to the demands and changes COVID-19 has brought our way to maintain and enhance our services. We now offer behavioral health services using telemedicine. Visits are available via telephone or video using your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Video visits are secure and don't require an app or software downloads. We also offer assistance to patients who are experiencing stressors of any kind in response to the coronavirus pandemic. To connect with one of our Behavioral Health Consultants via telemedicine, call our behavioral health schedulers at 518-836-3656 or 518-213-0584, or you can request an appointment online. If you are a CCP patient, you can also contact your primary care provider to let him/her know you would like to be seen by a BHC.