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Keeping a healthy mind amid pandemic

With the need to stay physically separated, and people worried about their jobs and health, the COVID-19 pandemic can be a source of stress and anxiety. Reframing the situation or reaching out to friends and family digitally or over the phone are two ways to manage that stress.

The Mississippi Department of Mental Health recommends avoiding too much bad news or social media and taking time to engage in enjoyable activities. Continuing to maintain physical health through exercise, healthy meals and enough sleep is also important, according to the department’s website.

Picayune therapist Dr. Tom Boone said that predicting a negative outcome can be devastating for people who may develop a state of learned helplessness if they feel like a victim of circumstance instead of the manager of their circumstances. A reality where people may be losing jobs or experiencing financial difficulties can push them to feel overwhelmed, said Boone.

Being able to find ways to reframe the situation can help people manage that feeling of being overwhelmed. In his own life, Boone said he has tried to reframe the time stuck at home as an opportunity to do the things he did not have time for before, like reading books or finishing projects.

“We can either be our own best friend or we can be our worst enemy, depending on our internal thought processes,” said Boone.

The disruption of social lives can compound a situation people may already feel is overwhelming, said Boone. DHM recommends reaching out to friends and family through video chat to experience “face-to-face” contact or calling so that loved ones can hear each other’s voices.

Anticipating that the circumstances will pass can also help, said Boone.

“Things are going to get back to where grandmothers can hug their grandkids,” he said.

Irritability in teens or excessive crying in young kids might be a sign they are having trouble coping with a stressful situation. Regular routines and adults who can act as reassuring role models can help children or teens cope with stress, according to DHM.

Everyone should seek help when they need it. Crisis lines and professional help are available.

“A lot of folks are facing problems that they have no idea what to do with, and they feel lonely, and they feel helpless and isolated, and all of those negative things, and that’s where professionals come in because of our training,” said Boone.

Some mental health practices like Boone’s are offering tele-health, where people can videoconference with a mental health professional. Such services are often covered by insurance, Boone said. The DMH helpline, 1-877-210-8513, is staffed at all times. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. DMH offers more information on mental health resources at mentalhealthms.com.