Dr. Jennifer L. Hughes

Southwestern Medical Foundation recently had a chance to discuss the mental health challenges our nation is facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic and ways to stay mentally healthy with Jennifer L. Hughes, Ph.D., M.P.H., a licensed psychologist and Head of the Risk and Resilience Network in the UT Southwestern Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care (CDRC). Dr. Hughes shares her top five practical tips for practicing mental resilience and maintaining a healthy mindset:

1. Acknowledge your feelings

Dr. Hughes explains that it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious, worried, or stressed during this time. Instead of denying those feelings or trying to power through them, allow yourself to address and embrace what you’re experiencing.

2. Take Your Emotional Temperature

Dr. Hughes suggests taking time every day to name your emotions. Whether this involves spending some time by yourself to reflect, or verbally expressing how you’re doing that day with loved ones, naming your emotions is a great coping skill. One easy way to do this is to pinpoint where you are on a scale from 0 to 10. Dr. Hughes explains that practicing this form of mindfulness provides a chance to internally check-in.

Not sure how to check your emotional temperature or name your feelings? Check out our free resources below. 

Download a printable version of the the feelings wheel for adults

Download a printable version of the feelings wheel for children

3. Connect With Other People

Although many are working remotely, practicing social distancing, or temporarily isolating ourselves from family and friends, we can still find ways to stay virtually connected. Dr. Hughes explains that maintaining your relationships and staying in touch with others, especially those closest to us, is an important factor when it comes to managing depressive symptoms and reducing the risks associated with mental illness.

4. Practice Tolerance Skills That Help You Get Through Times of Stress

Challenge is an essential component of practicing resilience. Dr. Hughes shares that in order to strengthen ourselves mentally and build up resilience, we must face adversity from time to time and approach problem-solving with intention and resolve. She emphasizes that change is a constant part of life; practicing acceptance of things that can’t be changed helps us focus on what we can change. This allows us to flexibly solve problems and develop life-long coping skills.

5. Throw Yourself Into an Activity You Enjoy

Immersing yourself in something you’re passionate about is a healthy coping strategy. Dr. Hughes suggests both tried-and-true hobbies, as well as new activities, with the reminder that no single strategy will work all of the time. Some days, seeking the comfort of your favorite pastime is the best way to support a healthy mental state, while other days, you may find that trying out a new skill or starting a new project can help refresh and revitalize your mind. Trying a new activity that gives you a sense of purpose or allows you to connect with or help others can be especially helpful.

The CDRC at UT Southwestern is dedicated to helping manage the mental health effects of the coronavirus pandemic in our community. From tips for children and adolescents, to the need for resilience-building in adults, they are offering a comprehensive list of resources. Please click here to learn more and view their mental health resource page.

For more information about COVID-19, mental health resources, or referrals in the DFW Metroplex, call the CDRC Support Line at 214-648-7355 and speak with a licensed clinician. The line is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. CST.