For seven weeks now our students have been homeschooling, many businesses have been closed, and the entire nation has been in at least a semi-state of lockdown. That many days without our usual routines, and daily interactions with each other, can begin to take a toll on our mental health.
Part of our responsibility as adults is to make sure the children and young people in our lives are properly equipped to handle the changes and stress that have come over us during this pandemic. But mental health professionals remind us grown-ups that it is essential we take care of ourselves too.
Dr. Luke McConnell of Behavioral Medicine Associates in North Platte, was asked in a recent Town Hall meeting, “Who do you think is getting through this more gracefully, kids or adults?”
“I’ve had more calls from parents than kids or teenagers. Most of my calls are coming from adults struggling with high anxiety,” McConnell responded.
He said most kids and young adults are maintaining contact with each other through video gaming and social media. “So they are weathering the storm better than the adults in some aspects.
“It’s ok to be anxious, and you should be anxious,” McConnell continued. “But give yourself a bit of grace - it’s ok. When you should become concerned is if your anxiety starts to affect your everyday life. It if gets overwhelming, reach out to a professional.”
When asked how he would recommend dealing with people around us who aren’t taking COVID-19 as seriously as we think they should, Dr. McConnell responded, “Be tolerant. Give everybody a chance to grow. You also need to have enough of a backbone to stand your ground when it comes to your own safety and well-being, but do it in a kind and loving way.”
Finding ways to stay connected can become even more challenging for our senior citizens. Karen Gutherless, program therapist for Senior Life Solutions at Gothenburg Health, said that while these new guidelines could be considered an “introvert’s dream”, for many of us social distancing guidelines can be a trigger for depression and anxiety. For some, depression and anxiety symptoms may increase while for others it may be their first experience with these symptoms.
“Simply put, social distancing and isolation require us to remove ourselves from the contact of others, which often results in a reduction or change in the kind of support we receive to help manage our mental health,” said Gutherless. “Self-care and those interactions with others outside of your home play an important role in reducing the sense of disconnection, despair, fear, or hopelessness you may feel. These feelings along with others are how depression and anxiety present themselves.”
Gutherless said for some this may be a good time to slow down and reflect on your accomplishments, and begin focusing on things you have been putting off. What better time to read that book you haven’t had time to read yet, or spend time with your kids at home going through pictures and videos you’ve collected over the years. You could use this time to begin learning a new language you’ve always wanted to or focus on a hobby you’ve always wanted to try.
“The key is finding a balance that works best for you and focusing on what you CAN do rather than what you can’t,” Gutherless said. “ Use this time to reflect on what in your life adds value that helps to improve your mental health and work to remove the things that cause strain on your mental health. The more we can train our brain to reframe situations and look for the positive, the more we can help to decrease the symptoms of depression and anxiety that may arise during times like these.”