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Whole Health Begins with Mental Health

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Whole Health Begins with Mental Health



submitted by Shayna Ginsburg, Psy.D., Chief of Clinical Services, Education & Training
Youth Services Department, Residential Treatment and Counseling Division, Education & Training Center

The outbreak of the coronavirus, COVID-19 has been extremely stressful for many people. During this unprecedented time, we have experienced drastic changes as we face very real threats to our physical safety, abrupt changes to our routines and schedules, and social distancing from those around us. Feelings of fear, anxiety, confusion, impatience, irritability, and powerlessness are common, and may be experienced at different times and in varying degrees. Reactions may differ, depending on a person’s background, temperament, and unique personal circumstances. Regardless of the emotions you may be experiencing, your feelings are valid. Despite the broad range of negative emotions, there are many ways people can act to support themselves, manage stress, regulate emotions, and increase resilience during this challenging time.

Focus on health and safety. It is essential that everyone follow CDC guidelines related to practicing good hygiene; there are also many other ways to take care of your physical health. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by engaging in physical activity; getting sufficient sleep; eating healthy, well-balanced meals; and avoiding excessive caffeine, alcohol, and other illicit substances. Engage in guided imagery, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, stretching, and yoga, which have all proven effective in decreasing stress levels. While even just a few minutes a day can provide a sense of calm, the longer and the more often you practice these relaxation techniques, the greater the benefits. Stress reduction can help you gain a sense of control over certain things in your life.

Engage in enjoyable activities. While the coronavirus has impacted many of the customary things we used to do, we can find ways to enjoy those same activities in different ways, or even find new hobbies. Leisure promotes positive psychological states. Engage in virtual activities, such as a visit to the zoo, a music concert, a drawing lesson, a fitness class, or even learn a new language. With the help of technology, take advantage of the world at your fingertips. Allow moments of boredom to inspire innovation and creativity by allowing the mind to wander to new places. Moreover, the emotional benefits of leisure have been shown to reduce anger, anxiety, and depression, and increase the ability to cope with stress and adjust to adverse events.

Social distancing does not mean social isolation. While it is essential to practice physical distancing to remain safe and not spread the virus, it is equally important to connect with family, friends, and colleagues regularly. Interacting with others has been shown to boost feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression. Today’s world has never been better equipped to engage in communication through phone, text, email, and video. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and feelings, connect with loved ones and others who may be experiencing stress related to coronavirus, and do not forget to also enjoy conversation unrelated to the outbreak. Look for opportunities to share humor and levity in spite of the circumstances. During this time of physical disengagement, we must all work hard to connect to those around us.

Set limits on exposure to media. It is important to get accurate health information from reputable sources. Various news broadcasts and social media posts sometimes contain contradictory information from what is available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). Furthermore, watching, reading, or listening to stories about the pandemic repeatedly throughout the day can be distressing; therefore, it is important to set limits on media consumption, including local or national news, as well as various social media platforms. Keep things in perspective by reminding yourself that most people who contract COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms.

Remember, this too shall pass. With every new situation, change is inevitable. There will soon come a time when our current situation will pass, and things will return to a “new normal.” Instead of focusing on all of the negative aspects of the current situation, use cognitive reframing to see this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones or learn a new skill. While post-pandemic life may be different than what we knew before, we have the opportunity to reimagine norms and create a new reality. The possibilities are endless.

Contact the Youth Services Department’s Education & Training Center for free telemental health services by calling 561-233-4460 or visit our website for additional information.