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Even though it’s ebbing, COVID’s continued impact on our day-to-day living is causing distress for many.
The pandemic has brought mental health conditions even further into the light as people respond to ongoing changes with anxiety and depression.
Providence clinical social worker Josh Cutler provides tips on living with uncertainty and building resilience.
In the wake of COVID, we’ve been dealing with massive amounts of change in our daily lives. And it’s safe to say that the change is not over. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic evolves, we continue to adapt to new information, schedules, and guidelines, like working from home, masking, social distancing, remote learning, and much more.
Establishing new habits can help us cope with uncertainty and daily routines help us move forward. But one of the most important things to remember is that we are not alone; there are people and resources to help us navigate this time.
Here’s what Josh Cutler, LICSW, clinical social worker at Providence, says about finding ways to face more changes with positivity and make hard decisions with confidence.
'People are resilient and adaptive'
Many Americans were managing mental health issues long before COVID-19. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in five U.S. adults are living with a mental illness – according to a study completed in 2017.
Layer the recent pandemic on top of typical stressors of daily life and it’s no surprise more and more of us are feeling anxious, depressed, or fearful.
“The biggest challenges for many of us are changes to things we took for granted – running into the grocery store after work, dropping kids off at school,” Josh explains. “People are resilient and adaptive, but too much change, too fast can overwhelm anyone and lead to mental health distress.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us believed (and hoped) that the changes caused by COVID-19 would be temporary. But now, many of us are feeling the pressures of extended quarantine and are missing our “old” favorite daily routines. On top of that, we’re realizing that things may never return exactly to the way they once were.
Josh acknowledges that it’s okay – and important – to grieve those changes but without idealizing the past.
"There just has to be a level of acceptance,” encourages Josh. “We can fight these changes, or we can put that energy into focusing on what you can do in this moment, today.”
It’s the focus on the things we can control that will ultimately help us cope, Josh believes.
Take an ‘inventory’
The science is clear: Your mental health is impacted by your physical health. It’s why things like sleep, diet, and exercise are so important in being healthy and feeling strong. But, mental health can also be affected by other factors, explains Josh.
“Humans need exercise, social connection, and recreation to grow,” he says. “Life can get out of balance easily, especially when we’re working from home, teaching children remotely, and are dealing with missing the activities and errands we took for granted.”
Josh recommends that you take a regular inventory of how you’re feeling and how your choices are impacting those feelings.
“Maybe you’re feeling really upset and anxious one day, but when you do a quick scan of the last few days, you realize you’ve been going to bed late, eating too much sugar or skipping your regular exercise routine.”
- Next time you’re feeling in a funk, ask yourself these questions:
- Did I eat too much junk food and not enough healthy food?
- Did I stay up too late?
- When is the last time I exercised?
- When is the last time I picked up the phone to talk to a friend or family member?
- Am I making enough time in my day for things I enjoy?
- Am I working too much?
While some mental issues are harder to overcome, going down the list of your recent habits can help you figure out what’s out of balance and what may need a little more attention in your life.
Try an ‘attitude of gratitude'
It can also be helpful to focus on gratitude when you’re caught in negativity. After all, experts recognize gratitude’s many benefits, including:
- Boosting your mood
- Helping you feel optimistic
- Feeling connected to others
- Improving your physical health
"Practicing gratitude seems like a simple exercise, but it can have a big impact. Focusing on what’s going well and what you’re grateful for can help you move into the present. After all, it’s when we get caught up on the past or future that can be problematic,” says Josh.
Here are a few simple ways you can practice gratitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal of the things you are grateful for
- Share your gratitude list with your family at dinnertime
- Let someone know you love them
- Sit outside and appreciate nature
- Perform a random act of kindness
- Spend quality time with your family or friends
Be flexible and creative
COVID-19 hasn’t just disrupted our work or school routines. It’s also impacted many of our social routines and hobbies we enjoyed.
“It’s much more difficult to meet up with friends for dinner or head to the gym to work off stress,” acknowledges Josh. “But those rituals are still very important. Be flexible and creative to keep taking care of yourself a priority.”
Not sure where to start? Try out a few of these ideas to see what helps you relax and unwind:
- Set up a weekly Zoom happy hour with friends or family
- Try a new recipe
- Explore a new hiking path
- Do an exercise routine from home
- Read a book in a local park
Establishing new routines and being flexible and creative is especially important as we head into the “new normal.”
Find a doctor
If you’re struggling to cope with these challenging times, talk to your primary care provider. They can help you develop a plan that works for you. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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