IDAHO — The one-year mark of COVID-19's arrival in Idaho is approaching, and for many of us, that also signals a good time to take a closer look at our mental health.
February is American Heart Month, prompting everyone to put a renewed focus on their heart health. There's special importance for women to do so as cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, domestically and globally.
The Go Red for Women movement is the American Heart Association's signature campaign and encourages women to educate themselves on their heart health and empowers them to take charge of all aspects of their health, including mental health.
"When we think about mental health, it can affect our physiology in a number of ways," says Regence Executive Medical Director Dr. Amy Khan. "It can raise our blood pressure, putting more stress on our heart and heart muscle. It can cause us to develop habits that maybe aren't so good, like turning to excess alcohol. People may use tobacco to cope with stress rather than using some healthier practices to help keep the stress in check."
For some, Dr. Khan says, stress can also cause inflammation which is hard on the body and can cause further development of heart disease.
One of the aspects of maintaining good mental health, and in turn good heart health, is staying resilient.
"Resiliency is the ability to withstand, bounce-back, really grow in the face of adversity and challenges. As we know now a year into this pandemic, we've had plenty of opportunities to reflect on that. Resiliency is an important quality or skill that allows us to be successful through challenging times," explains Dr. Khan.
With all the added stressors and challenges from the pandemic, your ability to stay resilient may be hitting a wall. So, how can you recharge it and get back in the swing of things?
"Recharging really first starts with developing awareness. How are we doing? What are our strengths? What have we done well in the past and what may not be working out so well for us right now," says Dr. Khan. "In addition to that, it's probably a good time to do a little health check, right? How are our practices? Are we eating right? Getting enough rest? Getting some exercise? Those can be really good ways to help address and improve our resiliency."
Finally, Dr. Khan says to remember it's not a "go it alone" time; it's a time to connect with each other and make real for yourself and others what's happening so you can find more skills and new ways to cope more successfully during this time.
"Persons can certainly go to their health plans, Regence and other plans, as well as the health care system itself offers screenings, offers opportunities to get therapy treatments for conditions that might ride along with what's going on right now, and ultimately, go to the internet. There are lots of tools there," Dr. Khan adds.
She says look specifically for tools or apps on mindfulness, meditation, resiliency training, stress reduction, and also community resources that allow people to feel more connected to each other.
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