Taking care of yourself during a pandemic | News, Sports, Jobs

I’m like you, COVID-19 has taken over much of my professional and personal life. I can’t remember the last time I went an entire day without talking about COVID, precautions, or vaccines. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by how our world has changed and to cry for the things we’ve lost.

The past 24 months have been filled with rapid adjustments, long days and uncertainty. COVID is all over the news and social media, and I think we’re all exhausted at this point. As a nation, we have struggled with varying degrees of loss, isolation, and anxiety, and it has impacted us all.

The impact on our collective mental health has been significant with a sharp rise in depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Globally, the prevalence of depressive disorders increased by almost 28% and that of anxiety disorders by almost 26% in 2020, according to a study published in The Lancet last year.

Fortunately, many of us have sought professional help and support. Locally, at Community Services Group (CSG), we have seen a surge in demand for services. Throughout the pandemic, CSG has successfully adapted to meet both the growing demand for services and the need to safely provide services to staff and service-seekers. One of the positive aspects of the pandemic has been the expansion of telehealth services and the wide acceptance of service seekers and payers. Telehealth has helped people overcome common barriers to treatment, such as transportation, absence from work, and fear of getting sick.

Professional help, when needed, is just one of the many ways we can and have managed to adapt and survive stress and frustration. Another resource that has proven useful for both clinical and personal use is a platform called MyStrength. The CSG and other providers, health plans and employers provide a registration code to people seeking services and their families that allows interested people to access this site. MyStrength includes evidence-based practices and tools to help people reduce stress, manage anxiety or depression, cope with chronic pain, and more. A few minutes a day of watching short videos or doing exercises can help a person figure out how they are feeling and find strategies and tools to manage feelings of anxiety and symptoms of depression.

There are many ways to boost your mental health and well-being and reduce stress, outside of seeking professional help. Self-care and resilience have never been more important. Here are some things to consider to help you through this difficult time:

• Be gracious with yourself and with others. Give yourself space to be patient and understanding with yourself and others as we all work to find our way through the end of the pandemic and into the post-pandemic phase.

• To breathe. When anxiety starts to swell, sometimes the best first step is to just stop for a second and breathe. There are plenty of great resources out there to help you learn how to pause, breathe, and refocus.

• Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Exercise. Get enough quality sleep. Engage in enjoyable activities. Stay connected with your family and friends.

• Be ready. Understand yourself, your needs and your “signals” will help you tune in to how you are reacting to the changes you are going through. Get ahead whenever possible. The situation will undoubtedly continue to evolve, but you can find some comfort in controlling what you can influence.

More importantly, if you feel it’s getting too much to handle on your own, ask for help.

Aimee Tsikitas, LCSW, is the Manager of Mental Health Treatment Services for the Community Services Group (CSG). Aimee is a graduate of the Catholic University of America, where she earned an MSW. Aimee became a licensed social worker in 2001 and obtained her clinical social work license in 2003.

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