Get More Sleep, Connect with People Close to You, Take Breaks to Ease Stress and Stay Active
Life Interrupted experts offer tips on self-care, focusing on what matters rather than allowing schedules to overtake us.
While pandemic loss and isolation spiked anxiety, depression and a shared community trauma, it also prompted us to reconsider what’s most important, to embrace what brings us joy and to reconsider how we spend our time as individuals and as a community. Mental health advocates see an opportunity for us to emerge more aware and more thoughtful about how we spend our time as we return to more active lives.
As the leader of a center focused on helping patients most affected by mental illness, Claudia Crist has remained in emergency mode for most of the past 16 months. Crist serves as chief executive officer of Sutter Health Kāhi Mōhala. To keep going, she found herself evaluating and re-evaluating what and who is really important in our lives, then taking time “to really nurture relationships, not just via text messaging but actually meaningful outreach.”
She also started making a list in the notes section of her phone of what’s going well. “Every once in a while, I find myself actually going back to the list to just not only keep myself going but also I continue to motivate myself and it’s starting to have this forward momentum that I’m really excited about in a sense, such a simple thing and it works for me,” Crist says.
Psychiatrist Dr. Jason Keifer specializes in brain health as well as child and adolescent psychiatry. While he offers specific and detailed therapy within his practice, he notes that everyone can help their mental well-being with the simple step of getting enough sleep to help recharge our brains. He leads the Kāhala Clinic and Brain Health Hawai‘i.
Connecting with others and getting outdoors will also help, too. Keifer stressed the importance of reaching out to just a handful of people we care about, especially at those times when we feel most alone. “Our brains are wired to be social and it’s all it takes is five or six reasonably close relationships and you’re going to do well. And that could be family, be close friends, but get out with one another, and you could do it safely, it doesn’t take much.”
Keifer recognizes that reaching out when you’re feeling down or isolated feels hard but it’s worth it to connect. “When someone reaches out, just try it. It’s not going to be comfortable and may actually feel like it’s gonna suck, frankly speaking, but just try it, even if it’s just a walk down to the mailbox and back, or, you know one block and back, or all the way around one block, just try it, because you really want to kickstart what’s good for your brain, even if mentally you’re not exactly where you want to be at the moment.”
Those were among the tips to emerge from the latest virtual talk story in HONOLULU Magazine’s free virtual mental wellness series: Life Interrupted: Navigating What’s Next, Alarming Trends and Silver Linings on June 17.
Dan Chun has been the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu since 1994 and he encourages people to consider the leadership advice of author Max De Press as we move forward: “Define reality and say thank you.”
For Chun, defining our current reality confronts tough truths: “It’s hard, and I need help and I’m not as perfect as I thought i would be. Yes, a variant could come and the pandemic may last longer than I want, but we have to face reality for good mental health.” For him saying thank you allows us to be grateful for the good, “looking for areas where you could daily be thankful for that joy, that win, that victory.”
Kimo Carvalho works at Lili‘uokalani Trust helping the most vulnerable and disadvantaged Native Hawaiian youth. He recognized that getting people the essentials of food, shelter and safety lays the foundation for both physical and mental health. “Without those bare essentials you know you’re not going to be able to focus on your mental wellness,” Carvalho says.
He now sees positive steps as the teens he works with are beginning to socialize, getting outside and getting involved in sports and building connections. Carvalho looks at all the help that came together to help Hawai‘i through the worst times: community mass food distribution, stimulus money, unemployment benefits, an eviction moratorium. With the emergency relief ending, Carvalho hopes that these lessons can be reflected on as we create new policies and reallocate resources to really meet these basic demands using the last 18 months to provide insight to what’s needed in the future.
Crist also recognizes that we are still emerging from a global crisis that created trauma for us all. “We are still in this box, each and every one of us are probably functioning not quite to the top of our abilities or we are functioning in a very tunneled way because of like what we’ve had to focus on over the last year.”
Kanoe Enos is a co-founder of ‘A‘ali‘i Alliance, a partnership of consultants committed to systemic change and creating a better quality of life for the residents of Hawai‘i. He urges folks to start small, don’t be too hard on yourself or others and realize what you can change and what’s out of your control.
“You can’t stop the pandemic, you can’t stop massive forces outside of you. However, I work in systems change and systems change is incremental,” Enos says. So, while the goal in making critical changes to our lives and our community may be compared to the enormous effort represented by moving an entire ship, that big action can be broken down into smaller steps. “Start small, give yourself grace for the moments that you can’t make it that day.”
Enos also encourages all of us to recognize that the people of Hawai‘i are resilient and that we get through tough times together and emerge stronger. “I am a firm believer that we have the value sets, we have the people here to make it through anything.” We just have to keep learning the lessons that of what works for us and also rejecting what we’ve learned does not help us as a community to remain strong.
Mahalo to Dr. Jason Keifer, Brain Health Hawai‘i and the Kāhala Clinic for joining us as presenting sponsors for this year’s webinars. Our series began in May, which is Mental Health Month to help draw attention to the issues, nudge us toward solutions and illuminate resources available to all of us. Thank you to our silver sponsor: Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools; and mahalo to our community partners Mental Health America Hawai‘i and NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness)–Hawai‘i.
Missed a session? Find them at honolulumagazine.com available whenever you are.