Managing mental health in a pandemic

Omaha+South%27s+psychologist%2C+Kayleta+Adams%2C+practices+many+healthy+habits+to+maintain+her+mental+wellness%2C+including+traveling+to+places+like+Mount+Rushmore.

Omaha South’s psychologist, Kayleta Adams, practices many healthy habits to maintain her mental wellness, including traveling to places like Mount Rushmore.

Tania Moreno Tellez, Staff Writer

Many things have happened over the past few months that have caused a huge change in people’s lives. One thing that has been increasingly talked about during this pandemic is mental health.      

“Mental health is an important issue that has been discussed more recently because of Covid-19, matters of racial injustice, and other sources of stress and anxiety,” Omaha South psychologist Kayleta Adams said. Discussions about mental health can open doors to strategies for support.  

Mental health conversations have become more common as people have recently experienced major disruptions to their daily lives. These changes have affected people in different ways and to varying degrees.  

Putting information out for others to see, in print and television advertisements as well as through conversations, can be helpful for those who are struggling. 

“Sharing your feelings with trusted family and friends is important, but it is also important to know when to seek professional help,” Adams said. Everyone experiences stress; this is especially true when things are inconsistent and unpredictable.” 

Making time for yourself and taking a break to simply focus on breathing is one small activity that can help you relive yourself from the realities and problems of this world. 

For everyday stressful situations, it is helpful to take deep breaths, think positively, and be solution-focused problem-solvers,” Adams said. 

 She added that taking a break from social media, or from specific people if they are sources of anxiety, can have a positive effect on mental health. Anxiety can lead to severe symptoms of mental illness such as refusing to attend school, social isolation and thoughts of self-harm among others. 

 If symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily lifeit is time to consider intervention and treatment options with a mental health provider,” Adams said.  

Absorbing news and information over the past few months has been stressful for many people. The accompanying changes, including academic schedules, extracurricular activities, and employment statuses for both students and family members, undoubtedly added weight to preexisting stress. 

Adams acknowledged that such changes in routine are stressful but that many people adapt to these changes, even if they are difficult. 

On the other hand, exposure to the same stressors over and over can cause worry and fear,” Adams said. Poverty, racism and other forms of system discrimination are examples of chronic stressors that can contribute to chronic mental and physical health problems.” 

Not only is opening to someone a good idea but exploring new hobbies and interests, a therapeutic strategy called behavioral activation, is important as well. In addition to being a healthy coping mechanism this will provide entertainment during difficult times. 

“Finding positive activities can be life changing. Behavioral activation means you choose to engage in fun and safe activities when feeling overwhelmed,” Adams said. 

Simple ways to practice boosting a negative mood is to get creative. This may be with arts and crafts, writing a gratitude list and even repeating positive affirmations. While exploring nature, reading a bookor dancing around the bedroom it is important to check in with others as well. 

 Find a hobby, get some exercise, spend time with someone who makes you laugh,” Adams said. “Activities must be safe and things you personally enjoy. Find what works for you. Behavioral activation will not look the same for everyone,” Adams said. 

Adams added the reminder that drugs and alcohol are not safe, healthy or legal options for positive behavioral activation and that everyone should continue safe social distancing while exploring new healthy activities 

She has not, however, been oblivious to the mental and emotional changes in the people around her. 

“Most people around me had difficulty with the lack of structure and routine in recent months. Being back at school has made a big difference,” Adams said. Routines look different for almost everyone now, but people are adjusting and finding creative ways to make new routines work.” 

As this new school year continues and everyone adapts to this new and different routine, they should remember to treat themselves kindly and be present for others who may need to talk about mental health as well. 

Information about the symptoms of anxiety and tips for stress management can be found on the following websites: 

http://youth.anxietybc.com 

https://childmind.org/guide/a-teachers-guide-toanxiety-in-the-classroom/ 

https://copingskillsforkids.com/calming-anxiety/