Managing Your Behavioral Health During A Crisis

May 19, 2020

A crisis, no matter the magnitude, can make an impact on a person’s behavioral health. Although crisis states often can’t be predicted, learning some new skills can help. From understanding why we get stressed all the way to how to develop healthy coping mechanisms, I will provide some guidance on how to best manage your behavioral health in times of crisis.

Why We Get Stressed During A Crisis

Stress is a total body reaction. It’s important to note that behavioral health plays a role in physical health during a crisis because it’s all connected through our brains. When a crisis happens to us, we feel stressed psychologically and physiologically, and our body reacts to it by releasing a stress hormone called cortisol. This hormone is most helpful for short-term stresses, helping to focus our energies on the stress in front of us. 

Unfortunately, stressors heighten behavioral health conditions during a crisis, especially depression, anxiety, and illness-anxiety disorder. Human brains are more challenged by long-term stresses and less equipped to handle them. The same hormones that help us in the face of a short-term crisis can turn against us in a longer-term crisis situations like pandemics, financial distress, relationship stress, etc. Fortunately, there are ways to develop healthy coping mechanisms when we are in a crisis.

Coping During A Crisis

When a crisis happens, individuals tend to default to coping mechanisms they developed in childhood. Coping mechanisms are how we react to the stressful things happening and can be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy coping mechanisms include exercise, such as jogging or yoga, or doing a relaxing activity, like assembling a puzzle. Sometimes, people use negative coping mechanisms such as substance abuse or over-consuming the daily news, which can shift someone’s mood for the worse. Many healthcare professionals recommend a variety of healthy coping mechanisms and activities, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I encourage you to find a healthy coping mechanism that works for you, because everyone copes differently.

Let’s work together to combat the stigma that exists around behavioral health challenges. All of us struggle with underlying behavioral health concerns. Examples of behavioral health struggles include sleeping problems, eating behaviors, exercise behaviors, mood shifts, and anxiety about the future.  Individuals with more significant behavioral health challenges like depression, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders may be more triggered by stress than others and may benefit from learning different types of coping mechanisms.

How To Identify Signs of A Behavioral Health Condition In Loved Ones and Friends

We know that everyone deals with a behavioral health condition in some way, and it is important for us to identify signs in loved ones and friends to help them manage their challenges when they are in crisis. Recognizing signs that someone is struggling with a behavioral health challenge can be important for physical health concerns, as well. Behavioral health concerns exacerbate chronic medical conditions, and chronic medical conditions exacerbate behavioral health conditions. Learn more about how behavioral conditions affect chronic conditions like heart disease, lung problems, and obesity.

Identifying the signs of a behavioral health challenge can be difficult, but I recommend looking for changes in that individual’s typical behavior. For example, is your loved one spending more money on unnecessary things when they shop online? Another important behavior to note is that if you happen to be under a shelter-in-place order, your work life and personal life are blending together, so pay attention to loved ones and friends who may be working more than they used to or are in front of their screens for longer than usual. Read more about how to identify signs of a behavioral health condition to help someone.

How Blue KC Can Help

At Blue KC, we’ve made behavioral health a priority and we’re working hard to address all behavioral health care challenges. For more information about Blue KC’s behavioral health offerings, call our behavioral health partner, New Directions. If you’re a Blue KC member, the Behavioral Health number is on the back of your Blue KC ID member card: 1-800-528-5763.

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