While this pandemic has been devastating in so many ways there is one positive that has come out of it. More people are talking about mental health.

While awareness has been on the rise over the last few years, the stigma attached to mental health issues has remained high — and has been a barrier to healing. In fact, I think this is the top subject I hear people talking about. We have been focused on dealing with the physical side of COVID and many of us are also struggling with the emotional long-haul.

I recently read an article in The New York Times by Adam Grant that hits the nail on the head (“There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing”). He talks about moving past the panic of the early pandemic into the various stages of stress and worries and exhaustion-burn out to languish or a “sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

We have come to a place where it is almost like we are in a waiting pattern or going through the daily motions in the space between depression and thriving. It is the space where we wander on autopilot, and, according to Grant, “is the neglected middle child of mental health.” I tend to think he may be right. Operating in this space can lead to indifference and dull the conscious response to attend to mental health needs.

Each day we all deal with many pressures and responsibilities from jobs and kids to whatever else is competing for attention in our lives. We tend to live hectic lives and, as a result, mental health is pushed to the back of the priority line. I think many of us have done this throughout the pandemic, saying to ourselves that “I just need to make it to ______________ (fill in the blank).”

As spring hits many of us have been able to get away and reset. The good news is that now is the perfect time to focus on a few basic mental wellness practices that can prioritize your overall mental health. This is exactly the right time to make some time and prioritize your mental health before it gets to be something more serious and difficult to deal with.

• Pay attention to how and what you are eating and drinking, get enough sleep and try to get some exercise each day. If your sleep is off (too much binge-watching Netflix?), evaluate your sleep hygiene practice and see if there are some habits you can change. It is amazing how much of a role sleep and nutrition play in how we feel mentally as well as physically.

• Be aware of how you are feeling and doing. Notice patterns and be honest with yourself. How many times have you answered “I’m great, I’m fine” or something similar when, in reality, you are really struggling?

• Give yourself some dedicated down time. Focus on one small project or goal and dedicate some of this down time to completing. Celebrate success. A sense of purpose and progress is a great countermeasure to the blahs.

• Manage your stress levels. If you find yourself spinning on worry or beating yourself up for something that happened in the past, it may be an indicator that you need to work on your mindfulness skills. Practice some mindful exercises with breathing or meditating. There are plenty of great mindfulness exercise apps that you can give a try or schedule during your day. MyStrength.com has a great series and is free with the code: jhcommunity.

Whatever you decide to do, make it a priority to pay attention to your mental health. It is not something that many of us are taught to do. We push it to the bottom of the list. Thinking that we will get to it “some day” or when we have more time. We all know it is not good to put off wellness checks for our health, or to delay getting that physical issue taken care of. Why not prioritize your mental health the same way?

Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center Executive Director Deidre Ashley is a licensed clinical social worker and has a master’s degree in social work. Contact her by emailing columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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