From social isolation and the loss of human contact to homeschooling and working remotely, COVID-related pressures have prompted a country-wide rise in stress, anxiety, depression and even suicide. On a more positive note, those stressors also shed light on the importance of fostering mental wellness — a topic that has historically been taboo — and inspire new coping methods. Here are two new and accessible ways you can nurture your mental health that are based right here in Music City.

The pandemic is significantly impacting mental health. Thankfully, there are accessible options to help us through.

The Happy Hour

Located in 12South, The Happy Hour is a mental wellness studio that’s endeavoring to make it more comfortable and convenient to gain a little mental TLC and simultaneously enjoy some community and connection. The walk-in facility, which opens on March 15 in the building that formerly housed Las Paletas popsicle shop, offers everything from one-on-one therapy sessions to group classes and workshops. The fact that you can walk in on a whim for care is a concept that lends itself well to busy work schedules and home responsibilities and offers an opportunity to discuss feelings and life challenges as they arise. “We want to make it as easy to work on your mental health as it is to go to a yoga class,” says owner and Certified Holistic Life Coach Clara Belden. “Oftentimes, our mental health takes a back seat. As a society, we have been taught to keep it quiet and power through, which can be damaging to our total health in the long run. We want to help people experience mental wellness in a way that feels familiar to the rest of their health routine.” The office itself is thoughtfully designed to help normalize mental wellness and make it more approachable as well, with an interior that Clara says is “designed to feel more like a modern spa than a therapist’s office.”

The Happy Hour therapists and life coaches prioritize the mind-body connection, underscoring the notion of making mental health as much a part of our daily routine as showering or getting dressed — particularly as COVID continues. After all, navigating a pandemic is uncharted territory for every single one of us, and it affects each of us differently. “Everybody has suffered from tremendous grief caused from loss during this pandemic,” Clara tells us. “Whether we’ve lost a loved one, a job, a business, or the ability to see family and friends, we have all had to deal with the grief of losing the world as we knew it before COVID.”

Clara Belden of The Happy Hour

The Happy Hour‘s owner and Certified Holistic Life Coach, Clara Belden. Image: Anne Catherine Art

Being mentally and physically exhausted has become so commonplace that it can be difficult to recognize the steps toward clarity. “Going through so many of these rare experiences and big emotions in such a short time has made it incredibly difficult for people to know how to identify what they’re feeling and regulate their emotions,” continues Clara. The Happy Hour introduces several ways to get back on track. In fact, they’ve been helping bring balance to our community since COVID’s inception by offering a series of mental wellness pop-ups around town. From there, they launched several programs to assist with COVID-related challenges, and now, the brand new facility will open its doors to welcome locals into a space that safely provides a sense of community — which is what many of us are craving most. “We are taking every precaution to make the studio COVID-safe during this time,” says Clara of their efforts. “Group classes will require six-plus feet between seats, and masks will be required throughout the space. While we strongly believe in the importance of in-person connection, we will also offer virtual private sessions for the time being for guests who feel more comfortable tuning in from home.”

The key to a person’s mental wellness may lie in talking about the emotional journey and asking for help when it’s needed, and The Happy Hour offers a forum for doing just that. Having an easy-access venue to share stories and experiences is a healthy, productive way to release stress and begin sifting through heavy emotions. “So many more people than you realize are struggling, even your friends who seem to have it all together,” Clara says. “Sharing a tidbit of your story to a trusted friend can not only provide you support but can also give them the permission and inspiration they need to get help, too. Talking to a therapist or coach does not mean that you are weak or inferior in some way; it means that you have the desire to live your happiest and most fulfilling life.”

Not to mention, there’s strength in numbers. “I think this collective experience of grief is teaching people more empathy and permission to talk about their struggles and their mental health,” adds Clara. “People are realizing that life is too short to do something they’re not happy with, and people are sick of living in a way that doesn’t align with their purpose and happiness.”

Once the studio opens its doors on March 15, pricing will be $145 for 50-minute one-on-one sessions, and 45-minute introductory coaching sessions are free for new clients. Group classes are $25 for 50-minutes, and two-hour group wellness workshops begin at $45. The Happy Hour is not accepting insurance at this time. The studio is located at 2911 12th Avenue South, Nashville, TN, 37204. For more information, or to register for workshops, visit The Happy Hour website, call (615) 953-3934, or email Clara directly at [email protected].

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Rendering of The Happy Hour in 12South, a forum for mental health support

The Happy Hour offers Nashvillians an accessible place of solace and mental wellness. This beautiful rendering of the building’s exterior, created by Pfeffer Torode, gets us even more excited for the March 15, 2021, grand opening! Image: Pfeffer Torode Architecture

FYI+

Telemedicine has been around for a long time, but there’s no question that COVID has made it more prevalent — a necessity, in fact. For some, having immediate, 24/7 access to licensed, board-certified medical professionals through phone and video calls means the difference between life and death. Cue Nashville-based FYI+, which offers monthly or yearly membership fees for teleservices that range from assessing COVID symptoms to talk therapy or psychiatry sessions with a qualified therapist. Visits can be requested using your phone, computer or tablet device, and there’s even a “Teen Talk” therapy option available for members ages 10 to 17.

The merits of FYI’s services are numerous, including the fact that you don’t have to schedule well in advance for an appointment (once you’ve requested an appointment, it only takes an average of 12 minutes to receive a call back) or risk exposure to sick patients in a waiting room. While this might seem like an obvious choice for those who suffer from physical ailments, there are huge benefits for those experiencing emotional challenges as well. “It is really important that people have access to professional help if their anxiety and symptoms are beginning to affect their health, relationships, work and sleep,” says founder Grayson Woods, M.D. “Just picking up the phone to start the conversation is a step in the right direction.”

With the ongoing isolation and a slower-than-preferred return to human contact with those outside of our immediate bubble, it’s imperative that there are virtual solutions for nurturing mental health. “Anxiety and stress are by far the most prevalent mental health issues that are being experienced by so many adults, teens and children during COVID,” Dr. Woods tells us. “If someone already had an existing mental health condition or ‘stressor’ such as depression, attention deficit, sleep issues, isolation, chronic worrying or relationship problems prior to COVID, the isolation, uncertainty and fear have quite likely exacerbated their existing ‘low-grade’ mental health problem into full-blown issues.”

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Dr. Grayson Woods offers us FYI+, a telemedicine service that supports both our physical and mental health. Image: Ashley Hylbert

Because of this, FYI+ has highly trained mental health professionals to offer support and a path toward healing. “Being able to listen well and offer advice and support over the phone is not something everyone is naturally good at,” says Dr. Woods. “The FYI+ therapists and doctors really know how to make our members feel heard and supported.” Members can schedule up to five talk therapy “visits” per month as part of their membership, and sessions can be scheduled with the same therapist each time for consistency and an established rapport. Psychiatry is also available for a separate fee. Dr. Woods emphasizes that the more someone can share their worries and emotional needs, whether one-on-one or in their circle of influence (workplace, friend groups, places of worship or even social media), the more they begin to de-stigmatize the need for emotional support. Our shared experiences can lead to a collective shift that allows for mental health to be less taboo. “If you have had a positive experience getting therapy or any type of support, share it,” encourages Dr. Woods. “You never know who you might inspire to open up — whether to you or to a professional.”

If paid annually, FYI+ memberships begin at $15.99/month for individual members, $19.99/month for couples, and $24.99/month for families, and no insurance is needed. Otherwise, monthly membership fees begin at $19.99/month and go up from there. The service is HSA-eligible and there’s no co-pay, deductible or call fee — everything is included in the membership, though there are add-ons available (such as psychiatry) for an additional fee. To register, visit the FYI+ website.

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