Five Brain Health Tips to Cope Through the Pandemic

Last year was challenging for all, and there’s no guarantee that 2021 will be easier. The COVID-19 pandemic has put an extra strain on brain health for many Iowans, causing or exacerbating feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness, depression and more. But no one is alone in their pursuit to seek treatment. The biggest barrier to achieving better brain health is often asking for help. That’s why the Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS) regions are joining efforts to share tips for improving brain health and how to recognize if someone is struggling right now.

Know the signs.

Brain health warning signs aren’t always clear. If you are struggling, or someone you know is, some indicators may help you know when to seek help. Symptoms may include behavior changes, an overwhelming feeling of fear and worry, brain fog, changes in everyday habits like eating, sleeping, exercising and hygiene regimens, and increased tobacco and alcohol use. The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides additional symptoms that indicate when someone may be struggling with their brain health.

(*Image courtesy of Southern Iowa Mental Health Center)
(*Image courtesy of Southern Iowa Mental Health Center)

Reach out.

If you feel “off” or stressed, reach out to a family member or friend ASAP. Even if you can’t be physically near your loved ones, you don’t have to be alone. A phone call, text, letter or virtual get-together can help you air your concerns and cure loneliness. If you know a family member who is alone or who struggles with brain health, check on them. A simple, “How are you doing?” can mean the world to someone who is struggling and give them the extra momentum to seek treatment.

Stick to or make a routine.

Don’t let the pandemic get you off track. Stick to healthy habits that get you through the day. If you have a recurring appointment with your counselor, make sure you stick to it. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Drink plenty of water. Set a regular bedtime to ensure you’re getting the proper amount of sleep. Find ways to stay active throughout the day. Letting your health fall by the wayside can make it challenging to stay on track. And if you don’t have a routine, now’s a great time to start one! 

Get out of the house.

Yes, it’s important to follow physical distancing best practices, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out of the house to enjoy the beautiful winter landscape Iowa has to provide right out your doorstep. Take a walk in a park and call a friend while you’re at it. Do something happy and healthy that can lift your spirits! 

Call your local MHDS region.

Fourteen MHDS regions are located throughout the state, and every Iowan has an MHDS region available to them. These regions have crisis lines available 24/7. We have staff ready to answer your call to get you started on your path to brain health wellness.

Join us in helping Iowans’ brain health stay on track in 2021 by spreading awareness that there’s help through MHDS.

About MHDS

MHDS is responsible for planning, coordinating, monitoring, improving and partially funding mental health and disability services for the state of Iowa. MHDS consists of 14 regions throughout the state, which all engage in a variety of activities that promote a well-coordinated statewide system of high-quality brain health services and support.