Whether you’re a parent working from home or an individual experiencing new stressors, many of us are identifying heightened stress levels in our everyday life due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We caught up with Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at The Lindner Center of HOPE Tracy Cummings to discuss coping strategies that can help during difficult times.
How can one cope with stress while balancing working from home, virtual learning, and other everyday stressors?
While our homes and spaces can be confining and feel small, luckily our minds can be infinitely broad and expansive. It may require less work than you think to reset the width and depth of our mindsets. Take intentional breaks throughout the day. Admire the view outside, go outside, or go to a different room. Being physically active can be a major stress reliever for some and is easily adapted to all ages and ability levels. Even dimming the lights briefly can allow for some relaxation. Personalize self-soothing activities during breaks that involve the five senses: light a scented candle; play inspirational music; enjoy a mint or flavorful treat; use a hydrating lotion; and reflect upon important pictures or vision boards.
How can people support their own mental health?
Taking an honest, personal inventory on how you’re feeling and handling your current circumstances is of utmost importance. Granting yourself permission to focus on your unique needs and maintain your values is crucial. Monitoring your daily influences including nutrition, sleep, physical activity, media and information usage, and soul-giving experiences can allow for better time management of those moments that are rewarding over those that are stressful. If help is needed to optimize mental health, it is brave and necessary to seek support.
Is there an easy way to support others through stressful times?
Accepting that a person’s response and processing of stress is quite individualized, it is important to show empathy to those around us. Respecting unique comfort levels with current COVID-19 circumstances is crucial. What might not worry you, could be too far out of another person’s comfort zone. Therefore, communication becomes key. Simply asking a person how they are feeling and allowing them the chance to talk and be heard can be so valuable. It is OK to not know how to fix all their problems, but showing that you are wanting to help be a part of the solution is sometimes all that is needed.
How about supporting the mental health of significant others, children, extended family, and friends?
Just as the airlines ask us to first put on our own masks before attempting to assist someone next to us, we must first be in a good mental state ourselves before trying to help someone else. If you feel you are willing and able to assist another person, it is helpful for you to reach out to that person rather than waiting for them to ask for help. And while you may not agree, they might feel like a burden in that situation. For example, instead of saying, I’m going to make some brownies later. Let me know if you want some, reframe your words by saying, I just made a batch of brownies, can I leave some on your porch? Make a phone call, send a message, or write a letter. Physical distancing requirements do not need to keep us from having social connections.
When should a person seek professional help?
Get professional help if you need it. Whether you are struggling with an increase in symptoms of a known mental illness or are concerned that you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, there are resources available to help you cope. Contact The Lindner Center of HOPE by visiting the website or call (513) 536-4763 to start the conversation.