Island Senior: Coping With Coronavirus, How Is Your Mental Health?

Posted June 30, 2020 at 11:49 am by

Have No Fear - Watercolor on Paper by Peggy Sue McRae

Island Senior is a reg­u­lar col­umn on the San Juan Update writ­ten by Peg­gy Sue McRae…

With the pres­sure and stress of open­ing up our des­ti­na­tion vaca­tion island only to then slow the open­ing back down, the arrival of vis­i­tors with and with­out masks, spik­ing COVID num­bers across the nation, not to men­tion pro­longed iso­la­tion, a shaky econ­o­my and toi­let plumes… Dare I ask, how is your men­tal health?

I start­ed see­ing a coun­selor for rea­sons unre­lat­ed to COVID-19 right before the pan­dem­ic hit. It was good tim­ing for me. Even as a clas­sic intro­vert who enjoys spend­ing plen­ty of time by myself, this far into “stay­ing home and stay­ing healthy” I’m glad to have a reg­u­lar con­ver­sa­tion, now via zoom, sole­ly devot­ed to my emo­tion­al well being. 

Per­haps one of the most dif­fi­cult things I have faced dur­ing the pan­dem­ic was the death of a close friend. It was hard to know how to grieve with­out phys­i­cal­ly get­ting togeth­er with oth­er peo­ple who loved her. Say­ing prayers for her with the Bud­dhist com­mu­ni­ty brought me back into that cir­cle. I now attend a week­ly med­i­ta­tion hour via zoom. If you have a faith tra­di­tion many church­es now offer zoom services.

On the Mayo Clinic’s list of self-care for men­tal health dur­ing the pan­dem­ic they rec­om­mend main­tain­ing a rou­tine at home and focus­ing on the things you can con­trol. Keep­ing in touch with fam­i­ly and friends via tech­nol­o­gy is a sug­ges­tion that has proven help­ful to me.  Music, books, and grat­i­tude, always good, are now more help­ful than ever. They also rec­om­mend lim­it­ing your news intake and stick­ing to reli­able sources. Sen­sa­tion­al­ism and hyped up emo­tion­al con­tent is not help­ful to volatile stress levels.

We are not out of the woods yet with this pan­dem­ic. In fact, we might as well set up camp and break out the s’mores. Based on the tra­jec­to­ry of past pan­demics we are bare­ly slid­ing down the back­side of the first wave. The high like­li­hood of a sec­ond wave puts us a year out from estab­lish­ing our new normal.

Accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Health this sum­mer we can expect upticks in frus­tra­tion “…we can rea­son­ably expect that between two and three mil­lion Wash­ing­to­ni­ans will expe­ri­ence behav­ioral health symp­toms over the next three to six months. Symp­toms of depres­sion will like­ly be the most com­mon, fol­lowed by anx­i­ety and acute stress.”

To coun­ter­act these trends the inten­tion­al devel­op­ment of resilience is what they rec­om­mend. “Resilience can be increased by: 

  1. Focus­ing on devel­op­ing social con­nec­tions, big or small 
  2. Reori­ent­ing and devel­op­ing a sense of pur­pose  
  3. Becom­ing adap­tive and psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly flex­i­ble and  
  4. Focus­ing on hope

Stay healthy and hope­ful my friends and be sure to seek help when you need it.

Link to: Mayo Clin­ic Self-care tips dur­ing the COVID-19 Pandemic
Link to: Wash­ing­ton State Dept of Health/Mental and Emo­tion­al Well-Being
Link to: New York Times/Toilet Plumes

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