Seek help from your primary care doctor or a crisis hotline if youre having intense feelings of depression, particularly suicidal thoughts.
Judith Overton| Guest columnist
Mental health a concern as children return to classrooms
Experts say returning to school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic will require special care for a childs mental and social development needs.
STAFF VIDEO, USA TODAY
If the past few months have left you feeling stuck in a time warp, youre not alone.
There were a few hopeful weeks in early summer when it seemed that normal activities were resuming in our state and our country. Now we seem to be back where we were a year ago with the COVID-19 pandemic because of the surging delta variant. Were also facing a divisive vaccination debate, and many hospitals are approaching or even above patient capacity.
During the last 18 months, many of us have lost loved ones, jobs or opportunities, and daily routines we relied on. This reinforces that managing our mental health is just as important as our physical health long a fact, but one that the pandemic has brought to the forefront.
Its natural, and even automatic, to feel worry or fear as we navigate the ongoing pandemic. Taking a simple first step like pausing for a deep breath can prevent a domino effect of dread, and help manage your mental health.
I cant overstate the importance of seeking help from your primary care doctor or a crisis hotline if youre having intense feelings of depression, particularly suicidal thoughts. Its also possible to get help using telehealth resources, and many BlueCross BlueShield plans offer talk therapy through the PhysicianNow telehealth platform.
Its also worth noting that depression can look different for everyone. Are you sleeping poorly? Unable to do things that used to be easy?
Stress and anxiety likewise shouldnt be ignored, and adhering to the basics for overall health diet, exercise and rest is one way to help manage them. Focus on introducing one healthy habit at a time into your life. For example, make Tuesdays and Thursdays dedicated healthy meal nights. Or set an alarm on your phone to start your bedtime process at 8 p.m. to be in bed by 9.
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I know many caregivers with young children or senior relatives juggle ever-rotating schedules. Make the most of the time you know youre in control of. Also, dont feel guilty about some things plans with loved ones, folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher that you sometimes have to let go of.
Guilt can weigh more heavily during difficult times; one way I cope is by limiting negativity in my life. Turn off the news at home or on your drive, and park your phone in a different room at night to avoid doomscrolling.
Also, practice mindfulness, gratitude and doing things that refuel you. There are ways to find joy even in times like these. Seek out new experiences and give back to others, regardless of whether theyre in obvious need. The idea I often share is to write down or say one thing youre grateful for each day. This can be during a point in the day when you typically feel stress creeping in.
If you struggle to write for yourself, send a letter or postcard to a loved one. Think about those whove suffered a loss during this pandemic; perhaps theyre nearing an anniversary of the death of someone close. A letter doesnt have to acknowledge this explicitly; just reaching out to let someone know youre thinking about them can speak volumes. And it can help you feel better, too.
All things considered, were in a better place than a year ago. COVID-19 vaccinations are readily available and effective at preventing severe illness, and our shared experiences during this pandemic have moved us even closer to destigmatizing mental health.
If youre struggling or feel stuck when that time warp sensation resurfaces, remember youre not alone and theres no shame in asking for help.
Judith Overton, M.D., is a psychiatrist and medical director for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
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