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Health: Wellbeing includes mental health

UCHealth

While today’s world may present heightened trauma and anxiety for many Americans, one hopeful shift over the past few years is the evolving view of mental health.

More specifically, there is a need to embrace mental health as part of a person’s overall wellbeing, on equal footing with physical health.

A new definition

“The destigmatizing of mental health over the past few decades took a giant leap the past few years as nearly every American was somehow affected by COVID-19,” said Justin Ross, a licensed clinical psychologist and director of the Workplace Wellbeing Program at UCHealth. “We need to change the conversation away from ‘having mental health problems’ to one that includes mental health being a collection of human experiences that we can learn from and improve.”



The individual and collective loss that COVID-19 caused has forced conversations about mental and emotional wellbeing that, in the past, were awkward or avoided among families and work colleagues. Along with the pandemic, current events and political upheaval also up the ante on one’s mental health journey.

Tips for managing stress

To be able to confront stress, anxiety and burnout, Ross recommends a number of strategies.



  • Find a starting point. You can’t change what you are not aware of, so identify what has been fundamentally disruptive to you. “This will be different for a critical care nurse vs. a 20-year-old college student trying to navigate college,” he said.
  • Acknowledge the sadness that we have all experienced – whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the loss of an opportunity, the loss of rite of passage or the loss of safety.
  • Make a connection – withnature, with a passion for new hobbies or activities, with community.
  • Manage your expectations. Reflect on your worries and fears so that you “authentically” take care of yourself. Exercise, meditation and boundaries around use of technology are a few options.
  • If necessary, seek professional help. Many insurance plans include mental health coverage both for in-person appointments or via one of the telehealth services that have come about recently. Many companies offer affordable options. “If it feels as though your typical means of coping are no longer offering you solace, it’s a sign that you may benefit from​ professional help,” Ross said.

Coming out stronger

When experiencing difficult situations, if possible, try to re-frame you’re your perspective to see a potential for growth.

“This is an opportunity for people to re-clarify what is meaningful at this point in their life,” said Ross. “Mental health is something we all have. It’s how you feel, it’s how you think, it’s how you relate to others. Mental health does not mean something is wrong with you.”

Despite the many challenges we face, working through trauma can offer profound and positive changes.

“One of my favorite quotes comes from Holocaust survivor and ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ author Viktor Frankl,” said Ross. “He said, ‘When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.’”

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