Attending to mental health, especially now, as the world continues to be somewhat immobilized and bombarded with scary statistics, is so important. Here’s why:
Recently, approximately 4 out of 10 adults in the US reported feeling anxious or depressed (an increase from 1 in 10 in January 2019), as well as a diminished sense of self-worth. What is fueling this? Worries over the pandemic, which are not only related to the economic losses incurred over the last 15 months (and those anticipated in the future), but also the ongoing (albeit, relaxing) public health measures that are necessary, but create indefinite isolation and ongoing disruptions to usual activities and routines. It has had vast changes on how we live, including not-so-positive sleeping and eating habits, as well as increases in alcohol and tobacco consumption, and a worsening of chronic health conditions. People report being angry and fearful, and most of all, being desperate for life to return to “normal”.
For children, the stress of the pandemic has created high rates of clinginess, distraction, irritability, and fear, with younger children being more susceptible to this. Further, as kids are sensitive to the emotional states of their caregivers, they are negatively impacted by the altered disposition of their parents. The adverse effect can be difficult to avoid at the moment, as parents and children are spending a lot more time together due to homeschooling and a reluctance to return to daycare.
The good news? We’re in this together. Every single human has been affected in some way, and we are surrounded by people who are going through it with us, which means, theoretically, that we have a lot of people to turn to when we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or burdened by this virus. Trust that others want to support you.
Here are some other things that you can do, right away, to bring yourself to a better headspace:
- Focus on your body (exercise as often as you can, try to eat balanced meals, continue with routine preventative measures, and incorporate stretching or meditation when you’re feeling overwhelmed; research has demonstrated how, when we move our body and nourish it with nutrients, we can stave off serious mental and physical health conditions)
- Make time for something that you enjoy (being in nature, playing with your pet, or watching your favorite show; doing what you love will help you to feel recharged)
- Make time for connection (I’m suggesting this again because it is so important. We are hard-wired to be in contact with other people; it is how we have survived all of these years. Call your spouse, sibling, or best friend. Share what is on your mind, and ask for help, when you need it)
Interested in how you can help your child, too? Here are some tips:
- Recognize and acknowledge your child’s feelings (e.g., “I know that you’re sad about not being able to see your friends as often. What are some other ways that you can have fun with them?”)
- Model how to manage emotions (e.g., “I am missing Grandma. I will set an alarm to call her tomorrow to share this with her”)
- Tell your child before you leave the house. Let them know where you’re going, how long you will be gone, and the steps that you are taking to keep them safe
- Let your children know that scientists and the communities are working hard to stop the spread of this virus
- Give extra hugs. We can never have enough.
Elon Gruber, LMFT, Owner of The Counseling and Wellness Center of Wyomissing