Many articles have been written about the long-term effects of the pandemic on mental health. They warn about isolation and loss of social connection. They remind us that while we should be taking precautions to physically distance ourselves from others, we need to stay connected. We are social beings after all.
The community has taken these words of advice to heart and found new and creative ways to stay engaged with family and friends. However, even as people are finding ways to stay connected, they may still be experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety, depression and fatigue.
We all have things we do to maintain our mental health and well-being. We attend group exercise, go out to dinner, socialize with others over coffee and look forward to planned vacations.
However, the pandemic has taken away these resources and activities that we typically use to motivate ourselves and ward off the feelings associated with anxiety, depression and fatigue.
The pandemic has put us on an unpredictable, unending roller coaster ride. Things are constantly changing, and this can be difficult to manage.
As a director of behavioral health with Jewish Family & Children’s Service, it is important to note that even though we don’t know when the pandemic will be over, and though relief from stress and anxiety may not be immediate, there are things you can do to stay mentally healthy.
Self-awareness is very important. Ask questions of yourself and pay attention to what your body is telling you:
How are you feeling?
What are your emotions, and are you comfortable with your emotions? Pay particular attention to how you are expressing your emotions and how the body is manifesting those feelings.
Is your blood pressure elevated?
Are you getting enough sleep?
Are you eating too much or not enough?
If you are self-aware and taking small steps to control and correct things that may be detrimental to your health, it may help you take back a sense of control ultimately improving your health.
I also challenge you to learn about yourself. Be insightful when discovering what makes you happy and what wears you down. If you love to read literature that is heavy and dark but you’re finding it tough to process right now, keep reading — just switch to something light like comedies.
Making small adjustments like this is self-medication in a good way. We all need to keep doing things that make us happy. We may just need to make adjustments to make sure those activities are still bringing us joy and promoting good health.
Give yourself permission to take a break and replenish your emotional resources so you can get back to what brings you hope, love and happiness.
The normal we will achieve in the future is going to be different than the normal we know now. The pandemic has allowed us to learn things about ourselves that I’m hopeful will benefit us in the future.
If you are struggling and need assistance, our behavioral health team is here to help. JN
Dr. Mario Lippy is director of behavioral health at the Jewish Family & Children’s Service’s Michael R. Zent Healthcare Center in Phoenix.