Island Senior: Coping With Coronavirus, How Is Your Mental Health?
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:
- Focusing on developing social connections, big or small
- Reorienting and developing a sense of purpose
- Becoming adaptive and psychologically flexible and
- Focusing on hope
Stay healthy and hopeful my friends and be sure to seek help when you need it.