Take care of your mental health in this uncertain time

The past two months have been a difficult and challenging time for Michiganders. We have gone from two confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the state six weeks ago to more than 33,000 cases April 22. The rapid spread of the virus has caused concern for residents in numerous ways.

Our foremost concern, of course, is for the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones. We have done a good job as a state taking the necessary precautions to prevent us from contracting the disease. But some of these steps -- especially our staying at home -- have led to situations causing other fears.

For those who have lost their jobs, the uncertainty of their future is compounding their worries.

And for most of those who are still working, they are now trying to navigate working from home with taking care of their children and dealing with all the stresses that combination can bring.

As the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services, I am keenly aware that we must not overlook how these uncertain times are affecting our mental health.

Thankfully, there are resources that can help. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a web page of tips for coping with the stress we are facing from COVID-19.

The CDC site includes the following ways to cope with stress, among others:

• Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media.

• Take care of your body.

• Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate.

• Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.

• Exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.

• Avoid alcohol and drugs.

• Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.

• Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

More information can be found at the CDC website here: cdc.gov/coronavirus. Scroll down and select the "Daily life & coping" link.

Michigan has been awarded more than $2 million in federal funding to respond to increased mental health service needs during the pandemic.

The two federal grants will contribute to both short- and long-term programming by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and will aid the areas hardest hit by COVID-19.

Whether you live in one of the harder-hit areas or not, these are stressful days. If you or someone you know is having a difficult time, there are state resources to help you, including the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services "warmline" for residents who have mental health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. This number is 888-733-7753, and it is available from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week,

You can also contact Michigan 211, which is available all day every day to connect with help of all kinds. Go to mi211.org or call 2-1-1.

Finally, faith-based institutions and religious leaders can be of great assistance. Please consider calling your pastor, a local church or another place of worship for prayer or counseling.

By looking out for each other, we will get through this crisis.

Senator Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services. He serves the residents of the 35th Senate District, representing the counties of Benzie, Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Ogemaw, Osceola, Roscommon and Wexford. He can be reached at 517-373-1725 or SenCVanderWall@senate.michigan.gov.