As the weather gets cold and the days stay short, many people struggle with negative emotions like stress and depression. So how can we talk about these emotions in a helpful, health literate way?
Make it actionable. Give people a way to ease the stress they may be feeling. For example,give them a list of easy stress busting activities such as taking baths and breathing deeply, and give them ways to cope with more serious concerns, such as phone numbers for suicide prevention lines and local support groups.
Stay positive. Keep your tone light and conversational. Tell people what they should do, not what they shouldn’t. For example, you could ask people to avoid alcohol or caffeine to help cope with stress, but avoid phrases such as “do not…” or “you need to…” that have a more negative or judgmental tone. You might say "Try drinking a big glass of water when you're craving coffee."
Use simple words. In health literacy, we know that words matter. If someone can’t read what you’ve written, they can’t benefit from it. For example, use words like sadness or worry instead of more clinical terms, such as depression or anxiety.
Put the focus on healthy behaviors instead of statistics. A statistic about how many people feel unhappy or lonely during the holidays may help normalize the feelings, but don’t rely on those statistics as your content. To make your content health literate, really focus in on how people can address their feelings in healthy ways. For example, a statistic could lead readers into the content, then turn it towards those healthy behaviors, such as: “More than 6 out of 10 adults feel extra stress during the holiday season, but here are some simple steps you can take to help.”
With a few quick tips and a little health literacy love, you can help people perk up, no matter what the weather.
Bring on the snow!