(ABC4) – According to Mental Health America, Utah ranks #47 for overall citizens experiencing some form of struggle with their health mentally.

Though Utah as a whole sits near the bottom of the list, mental health experts say the pandemic, and events similar to the Idaho school shooting have left a strain on many. But are there steps available to take to help manage this very strain?

According to the University of Utah, yes there very much is.

#1 Be present in the moment

Staff clinical social worker Christina Kelly LeCluyse at the University Counseling Center says that our brains frequently create “worst-case scenarios” about the future that increase our stress and anxiety in the present.

Not only that but as humans, we are prone to experience a great deal of distress when reflecting on past upsetting events.

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LeCluyse suggests that those struggling with their mental health should take time to bringing their attention back to the present moment—which really is the only thing that is currently under our control.

In order to do that, it can be helpful to take a break from screens, take several deep and slow breaths, and bring your attention to the present moment and the space you are in.

The practice of mindfulness can be a wonderful tool to help ground us in the present moment. The U has a Mindfulness Center that offers free daily drop-in Zoom sessions to help its campus community, no registration required. All Mindfulness Center offerings are free of charge and can be accessed here.

#2 Validate your feelings

According to the University of Utah, research shows that recognizing and naming our emotions is a crucial step to reducing mental and emotional distress.

“Whatever the emotion may be excitement, frustration, anger, etc, take a minute to reflect on what you are experiencing and then name it. Once you can name the emotion, you can then make some decisions on what you need to do to cope with it,” they share.

Donna Tetreault, ABC4’s parenting expert also states that once emotions become validated, it becomes easier to work towards managing mental health. She shares that when people typically experience two emotions at the same time, one might be more positive, and it is recommended to go towards the more positive one.

#3 Apply distance to the internet

According to the University of Utah, the internet can sometimes lead to a downward spiral and it is best to limit the amount of time you engage online.

“while being informed is important, it is equally important to take a break from the 24-hour news cycle,” they share. “Consider breaking up your news intake over the course of the day— possibly dedicating a certain amount each day to getting caught up and then turning it off. Be mindful of what information you are consuming and how much of it you are taking in because it will affect your mental health.”

#4 Take care of yourself

Due to the level of stress that many people are currently experiencing related to the pandemic and the world around them, it is vitally important to take care of yourself.

Officials recommend engaging in activities and/or relationships that can help you regulate your emotions and provide you with support and comfort. Connect with your community, reach out to loved ones, go outside, do some mindfulness practice, do some exercise, spend time with a pet, listen to music, create art.

“If we lack wellness in the different areas of our life, it can be a challenge to feel fulfilled,” shares Brittany Badger, director of the Center for Student Wellness. “Wellness is a foundational concept. It can be difficult to prioritize your own self-care needs. But when you take the time to take care of yourself, you’ll find that your capacity to care for others can increase and you feel more fulfilled.”

#5 Engage your mind with growth

According to the University of Utah, when it comes to managing mental health it is vital to disconnect from the things that fuel stress and anxiety.

Officials encourages creative and stimulating mental activities to further detach from the negativity.

“Our minds need to be inspired and active just as our bodies do. Being open-minded when encountering new ideas, embracing challenges, and seeking out lifelong learning opportunities cultivate our intellectual wellness. Try learning a new language, reading, doing puzzles or build a new hobby to foster this dimension,” they add.

#6 Coexist

Another valuable tip for those struggling with mental health is to coexist with their surroundings.

“This dimension encourages us to develop a set of guiding beliefs, values, and principles that provide meaning and purpose to live our lives more authentically. Living in harmony with these values allows us to be more spiritually well and can be embodied in many ways including relaxation, meditation, yoga, volunteering, nature, the arts, music, prayer, religion, and more,” the university shares.

For more tips on coping with mental health visit https://mindfulnesscenter.utah.edu/