Keep Calm And Carry On
Flourish’s cofounder and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Carreon kicked off our webinar series on mental health during COVID this past Saturday. In just a few days, we had ~200 signups. Here are the key takeaways and resource links. You can also watch the rerun for the live session.
- Mental health issues are on the rise due to COVID.
According to a recent survey by American Psychiatric Association, >1/3 of Americans reported that COVID has had a serious impact on their mental health. Some of these symptoms include: 1) having trouble concentrating anything but COVID, 2) having trouble sleeping, 3) increased fighting with a partner, and 4) increasing consumption of alcohol and drugs.
- Life hack: Don’t eat crap
This can be overlooked since it’s so obvious. While many of us are in shelter-in-place, it’s tempting to indulge in junk food. But it makes our mood go bad.
We recommend the Mediterranean diet that has a healthy balance of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy protein.
However, we also recognize life is tough nowadays. So please don’t beat yourself up too much for what you have eaten in the past. Just insert a small change toward a healthy diet.
- Life hack: Let there be light
Plants need light to live, so do you. In fact, bright light therapy is clinically proven to be more effective than medication. One psychiatric experiment tested exposing light to patients suffering from seasonal affective disorder who developed depression as seasons changed (usually during the dark winter days). The researchers simply exposed these patients to lamps with bright lights daily. Surprisingly, blasting someone with photons proved to be effective in treating depression.
Since we are still allowed to take a walk, please go outside to get enough sunlight to improve your mood.
- There is always at least something that you can do to make life a little bit less miserable.
Dr. David Burns, Dr. David Carreon’s mentor at Stanford, wrote a bestselling self-help book titled “feeling good.” Dr. Burns believes that “your feelings result from the messages you give yourself…you can learn to change the way you think about things, and you can also change your basic values and beliefs. And when you do, you will often experience profound and lasting changes in your mood, outlook, and productivity.”
During WWII, the residents of London in the U.K. faced bombing daily. The Nazis predicted that 3-4 million mentally ill patients would end up in hospitals due to the trauma caused by the bombing. However, the actual hospitalization was two patients per week.
So what happened? Londoners took small steps to encourage their fellow citizens. They shared stories about resilience. For example, throughout the city, stores and offices put up the sign “Keep Calm and Carry On” on their windows (though the widespread popularity of this message came later). Even when Londoners had just lost a friend or had their homes bombed, they would still carry on their daily business as usual.
You can do something similar. Maybe put up a positive sign in your room to keep your spirits up.
- Common mission and shared purpose can help you get through tough times.
We already mentioned how the British learned to cope with their misery with some simple steps. A deeper reason for why they stayed mentally resilient during the London bombing is their shared mission of defeating Nazi Germany.
We encourage you to reflect on your own common mission and remind yourself every morning. This exercise can give you meaning in your life, which is a key ingredient for having a healthy mind.
- Take care of your body, brain and soul.
To flourish as a person, we believe you need to be healthy in all three aspects of who you are. This holistic approach to health is symbiotic: a better body will help a better brain. A better brain will strengthen your soul.
- Trauma can lead to significant suffering, but more often than not causes people to grow
Your thoughts can dictate how you feel after even a trauma. Researchers have studied a group of teenagers from Asia who suffered from a deadly earthquake in recent years. Over 60% of these children’s homes were destroyed and nearly 10% of them were trapped in earthquake debris. Surprisingly, ~80% of them experienced post traumatic growth, instead of stress!
This finding matches well with well researched results from other post traumatic growth studies. While some people experience severe stress after a traumatic episode, others grew stronger and came to agree with statements like:
- “I have a greater appreciation for my own life.”
- “I am able to do better things in life.”
- “I established a new path for my life.”
- “I discovered that I’m stronger than I thought I was.”
- “I have a stronger spiritual faith.”
- Take it one day at a time.
Do not overwhelm yourself with the prospect of tomorrow. Just carry on and make it to the end of today.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, keep calm and carry on!
The Flourish Team
Links to Additional Resources:
For Post-Traumatic Growth:
For light exposure/Walk Resources:
- All Trails (app or website that helps you find trails near you!)
- Brain Lock by Jeffry Schwartz
For help navigating relationships:
Online Therapy Platforms:
For General Brain-Health: