A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column expressing my frustration with what felt like an uptick in angry, edgy people around the local community. And, that frustration was genuine — I continue to encounter less than gracious drivers and others in my personal life.
Centralia City Councilor Kelly Smith Johnston read my column and was kind enough to reach out and share some really interesting statistics and data with me from the Department of Health and other sources. In the data Smith Johnston shared, DOH outlines that now — six months or more into the pandemic — it’s not uncommon for people to feel increased feelings of anxiety or depression.
One of the things that makes this pandemic so difficult to deal with mentally is because of the uncertainty. Many of us hope to return to “normal life” sooner rather than later — but it’s more likely that we could be weathering this pandemic even through this time next year. While that information is hard to hear, being aware of that information from DOH can help us bolster our resiliency and resolve, while better managing internal expectations.
That said, in the event that we do end up facing health restrictions, social distancing and quarantine restrictions going into next year, and you’re already feeling a sense of grief, loneliness, anxiety or depression that’s coloring your whole outlook on life, or interfering with basic functioning or daily tasks (or sleep), please know that you are not alone. There are numerous, exceptionally understandable, and very valid reasons that any one of us might be feel overwhelmed: Job losses, housing uncertainty, disconnection from vulnerable loved ones. Managing virtual school amid other demands. The list goes on.
But, if you’re having these feelings, also know that there are many options and tools available to you that might help increase your personal sense of well-being and help you feel a lesser sense of dread or worry in your everyday life.
According to Lewis County Health Officer Dr. Rachel Wood in a recent column in The Chronicle, about one-quarter of Americans are feeling symptoms of depression. And COVID has created numerous barriers to our usual coping mechanisms. What you’re feeling is normal and to be expected — and public health officials are seeing it reported in recent data.
Dr. Wood offered several suggestions to help us increase overall mental health wellbeing, including taking breaks from the news, making time to unwind, setting goals and priorities, taking care of your body, laughing, connecting with others in safe ways and accessing behavioral health services.
Be sure to check with your health insurance benefits provider to see if your provider can help you access a mental health professional or even if they provide a mental health program.
There are also numerous non-insurance-based options, too, including apps and online resources. If you have internet access, you can browse for mental health professionals who provide telehealth or virtual appointments (I know, one more virtual meeting, but it helps, trust me).
It’s also worth reminding everyone that having and sticking to a routine can really help us manage our mental health even outside of a pandemic.
If you’d like to find some additional inspiration on incorporating addition self-care and resiliency skills into your daily life, you can also check out the Greater Good Science Center, based at UC Berkely, online at https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ where you’ll find specific academic-based articles, podcasts, and blogs from professors on finding ways to increase happiness and well-being. I highly recommend their monthly “Happiness Calendar” that encourages an aspect of self-care daily.
And, in case you missed this from Dr. Wood: “For a comprehensive list of professional mental health and behavioral health providers in Lewis County, go to http://bit.ly/LCbhealth. Lewis County resources are listed on pages 115 to 119. Veterans can also access providers at the South Sound VA Clinic in Chehalis, or by contacting the Lewis County Veterans Relief Fund at 360-740-1417.”
Brittany Voie is a columnist for The Chronicle. She lives south of Chehalis with her husband and two young sons. She welcomes correspondence from the community at email@example.com.