Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Tips for Mental Health During Pandemic

Local psychologists share ways to cope during difficult times.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Jul 16th, 2020 03:42 pm
Stress. (CC0 Public Domain)

Stress. (CC0 Public Domain)

People everywhere are trying to maintain their mental health through these unprecedented times.

Milwaukee is no different.

The Zeidler Group held a “Frank Talk” on July 7 focusing on mental health. The nonprofit holds these talks to facilitate difficult discussions, often about social issues in the city.

The mental health discussion was held via Zoom and featured two guest speakers: Tracy Treacy and Kweki Akyirefi Smith, both Milwaukee-based psychologists. Treacy is a counselor, and Smith is the creator of Blaquesmith, a psychological consultation service.

Here are some tips for those looking to improve their mental health:

Tracey Treacy. Photo provided by Tracey Treacy/NNS.

Tracey Treacy. Photo provided by Tracey Treacy/NNS.

Treacy said we need to place an emphasis on self-care during quarantine. She provided tips on things to do in everyday life to promote self-care:

  • Relaxation/meditation: Treacy said these things can be different for everybody. For some people, relaxation might be taking a nap; others, it might be watching TV
  • Praying/reading: Being able to mentally check out of the day’s events can be useful. Treacy said not to limit yourself to traditional book reading – listen to audiobooks or read graphic novels if you prefer.
  • Exercise/move around: “You need to move your body,” Treacy said. “Movement of the body increases happy endorphins, which are like nature’s antidepressant.”
  • Drink water: She recommends half a gallon a day at a minimum.

Create healthy habits

Treacy said if you do something every day for 21 days it can be considered a habit. Set that goal for positive habits you want to cultivate. She said it was important for people to find their own methods of self-care as well.

“I want people to define self-care as what it means for them,” Treacy said. “Not what somebody suggests for you to do, but what actually works for you that you can commit to that won’t feel like you just got something else on your list to do.”

Keep a positive attitude

Kweki Akyirefi Smith. Photo provided by Kweki Akyirefi Smith/NNS.

Kweki Akyirefi Smith. Photo provided by Kweki Akyirefi Smith/NNS.

Smith said thinking of things that we appreciate can naturally raise our serotonin when our mood starts to slip.

Smith said it’s important to focus mindfulness on the moment. Focusing too much on things we can’t change in the past and future can bring on feelings of depression and anxiety. Smith says we can counteract this by making the most of the present.

“We want to have these healthy distractions in our lives,” Smith said. “That’s where mindfulness comes in. What am I going to center my mind on?”

‘Healthy distractions’

Smith said the best “healthy distractions” are finding new routines and ways to improve ourselves. Baking a cake, taking a walk, learning new skills and languages are examples of this. Smith puts it simply as “working ourselves into something beautiful.”

Smith said mindfulness can take form in being “intentional about doing something positive.”

“Sometimes it’s OK to not be OK,” Smith said. “But we can overcome. We have to be intentional about doing it.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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