Thursday, May 21, 2020

Your Mental Health During the Pandemic

Image Credit: TZIDO SUN / Shutterstock
The other day I was watching Governor Andrew Cuomo use his new slogan, "How are you...really?" He was explaining how he was concerned with the overall mental health crisis that has risen a lot more since the pandemic. Mental health crisis lines have gone up 30% since March, and some people who have never even struggled with panic attacks or debilitating depressive episodes are experiencing this challenge for the very first time. You have to think about the life changes that we are all facing. Transitional "life changes" that affect us mostly are, death, divorce, loss of employment, moving, loss of home and financial problems.

The COVID Reaper

Many people are on social media airing out there opinions and whatnots. Some are downplaying the virus, while not having to experience the loss of a loved one to COVID-19. Most of the same types of people don't even know one person who contracted the virus. So, they start putting these strong opinionated articles, (most conspiracy theories) that the virus is a hoax, or it's not as bad as people think. Then you have someone reading their posts, thinking---"I just lost my mother to COVID and my two colleagues at the hospital died!" The virus is real---no doubt. I just wish that when people post articles like these, they would remember the people who are grieving due to this virus. It's insensitive and careless. I get it---quarantine the sick, and let the healthy go out into society again. But the tricky thing is, COVID can be contracted from somebody who isn't even showing symptoms. In fact, today there was an article about Alabama lifting the lockdown. They had recently flattened the curve and was ready to reopen the state. Now their ICUs are once again, filled at capacity because they saw a spike in COVID cases. So, you decide what's best for you to do. The people who are grieving over their lost loved ones would say four words: "I told you so."

Future: Unemployed & Homeless

As many of us are experiencing unemployment or the loss of our small business, we're also dealing with the possibility of the loss of our ability to pay for our homes, whether you rent or own. The fear of losing your home is devastating. So many thoughts can flood your mind like, "Will I be homeless? Do I have to ask relatives to take me in? Do I have to stay at a shelter? Will I be able to rent or buy a smaller home?" When the possibility of losing your home or business takes priority in your mind, you may feel as though you had something to do with the loss, or that you didn't do enough to keep your home or business. A false sense of failure may seep into your mind, and with that, depression can quickly escalate into suicidal thoughts. And that's where some people are at right now.

Domestic Disputes & Divorces

The average family wouldn't even think about the people who are struggling with their own spouse behind closed doors, especially if one is abusive. Things can be tense as it is when both spouses are home for a long period of time. I remember when my dad retired for the first time in his life, he developed an addiction to the QVC and cooking networks. All he did was max out his credit cards on crazy cooking ware that never worked and nearly burned down the house in the beginning. I'd get a call from mom, "Oh Gawd Deb, he bought another Magic Chef and now he has 22 in the pantry." I kid you not--when I moved out of that house, we literally left his Magic Chefs inside the pantry room. I giggled and shuffled back out of there. So that's on a very minimal "can't take him anymore" case. But some people are dealing with abusive partners and cannot escape at all. Some couples are divorcing, many families are splitting apart due to the rise in tensions. Don't forget about all of the parents home schooling their children. This isn't easy at all. They can barely get their mind off how to get food on the table, no less teach their kid about algebra for the first time.

Isolation

Isolation is no joke. It can literally screw with your mind and your ability to think clearly. We're social creatures, and we need human interaction. For me, since I work from home and don't mind being a little antisocial from time to time--it wasn't all that bad the first month. But I miss having my sisters and my in laws over, I miss visiting family and going to see my friends every now and then. To be forced into isolation is a whole other story. Those who are social butterflies are in complete shock right now. In fact, I'm kind of worried about one of my friends who is so used to going out every single day to see their friends--I haven't heard from her since the pandemic and she hasn't called me back. That makes me nervous. Check on your loved ones. Keep calling until they answer. Don't be a stalker--just keep trying here and there. Depression can manifest in many ways. Sometimes people do a disappearing act, or they'll lash out in anger. Other forms of depression can mean abusing drugs and alcohol. I can't emphasize enough: check on the ones that went silent! They're not okay.

Keeping Sane During the Lockdown
(There are things I do to maintain a level of sanity.)
  1. Pray and meditate. For me, prayer is the most effective way for me to start feeling better and hopeful. Prayer is letting everything go and talking to God about all of your worries, your fears and what's deep inside your heart. Prayer is also thanking Him for everything He has provided you with. Meditation is sitting in His presence, silently. Sometimes, I can feel a wave of chills (comforting tingles) that immediately give me a feeling of peace. 
  2. Music is therapeutic. When I'm having a little anxiety, I will pick up my guitar and play for an hour or two. Sometimes, I'll just light a few candles, put on my favorite music and reminisce about good times and hope for more to come very soon. 
  3. Gratitude. Every single morning, I write down at least five things that I'm grateful for. It usually ends up being more than ten. Simple things like thanking God for running water, a roof over your head, the bed you slept in---not everyone has those provisions. Thank Him for the breath in your lungs and the ability to make it through this difficult time. 
  4. Exercise. You don't have to do a triathlon to exercise. (Certainly not for me!) Even if it's rainy, I will walk 30 minutes inside my home. I have an elongated open concept living space where I can power walk at length each side. Granted, there are no hills, but it does help me mentally. When I'm feeling ok physically, I sometimes walk the hills of my neighborhood which is a good workout too. 
  5. Go outside. Even if it's for 10-15 minutes, bring yourself to get outside of the house for a little while. The sun provides a generous amount of natural vitamin D and helps to improve our mood.
  6. Cook! One of my favorite things to do is cook, as you all know. I not only do it for my food blog, but I genuinely love to cook a healthy meal for Madelene and myself. Cooking is a form of art, and if you don't know how to cook anything, just go to Youtube and follow the instructions. Just make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy! 
  7. Watch a comedy. Find something that'll make you belly laugh. I just watched the movie, "The Wrong Missy," with David Spade. Madelene heard me howling with laughter from upstairs. I try not to watch too much TV, but when I do, it has to be a comedy or a light-hearted drama. 
  8. Stay in contact with your friends and family through video chatting. I can't stress this enough. You need to be in communication with those you were in communication with before the pandemic. This helps to improve your mood because it gives you a sense of socializing---and it is in a way, but right now, it's important to stick with it. It does remove the feeling of isolation temporarily. 
  9. Read. I'm not talking about reading some bias article from social media. I'm talking about grabbing an old fashioned book that you can physically open with pages and read the entire thing. It'll take you out of your reality and into another world. You can bring the book outside or sit on your sofa with a nice cup of chai tea and relax. I will never give up reading books with pages. Kindles and digital books never did it for me. I will never convert.
  10. Stay on a routine! Go to bed at the same time if you can and make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep is one of the biggest immunity builders, so it's also important physically. But having a routine (no matter what is may be) will help with your general ability to not go completely insane. At night, before I go to bed, I light a few candles, and do deep breathing exercises with guided meditations from Youtube. I cannot tell you how much this has helped me. 

While the suggestions above can be helpful, sometimes it's just not enough. There is a number you can call if you feel depressed or having a panic attack.

Orange County Crisis Call Center (OCCC) officially opened on April 1st, 2019 and is composed of a team of experienced and highly trained professionals. The calls are answered by clinician-staffed telephone support and outreach unit that is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-832-1200 to anyone in the county in need of emotional support or crisis intervention. This is not a suicide hotline---this is a number that you can call if you are experiencing a bad panic attack or having a mental health crisis and just need somebody to talk to. You don't have to go through this alone. There are people who truly care about you.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com
or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog at DebsCucina.com
for some of her famous recipes!

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