The past 24 months have been full of rapid adjustments, long days and uncertainty. COVID is all over the news and social media, and I think we are all exhausted at this point. As a nation we have struggled with varying degrees of loss, isolation and anxiety, and that has taken its toll on all of us.
The impact to our collective mental health has been significant with large increases in depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Globally, the prevalence of depressive disorders grew by nearly 28 percent and anxiety disorders by almost 26 percent in 2020, according to a study published in The Lancet last year.
Fortunately, many of us have sought professional help and support. Locally, at Community Services Group (CSG), we have seen a sharp increase in the demand for services. Throughout the pandemic, CSG has been successful at adapting to meet both the growing demand for services and the need to provide services safely for both staff and individuals seeking services. One positive of the pandemic has been the expansion of telehealth services and wide acceptance from people seeking services and from payers. Telehealth has helped people to overcome common barriers to treatment, such as transportation, time away from work, and fear of getting sick.
Professional help, when it’s needed, is just one of the many ways we can and have adapted and survived the stress and frustration. Another resource that has proven helpful in both clinical and personal use is a platform called MyStrength. CSG and other providers, health plans and employers provide a registration code to individuals seeking services and their families that allows those interested to access this site.
MyStrength includes evidence-based practices and tools to help people reduce stress, manage anxiety, or depression, cope with chronic pain, and more. A few minutes a day of watching short videos or completing exercises can help someone pinpoint how they are feeling and find strategies and tools to manage feelings of anxiety and symptoms of depression.
There are many ways you can strengthen your mental health and wellness and reduce stress, outside of seeking professional help. Self-care and resilience have never been more important. Here are a few things to consider to help you navigate this challenging time:
• Be graceful with yourself and others. Give yourself space to be patient and understanding with yourself and others as we all work to find our way through the end of the pandemic and into the post-pandemic phase.
• Breathe. When anxiety begins to swell, sometimes the best first step is simply to stop for a second and breathe. There are plenty of fantastic resources out there to help guide you in learning how to take a pause, breathe, and re-center yourself.
• Follow healthy lifestyle habits. Exercise. Get enough quality sleep. Engage in enjoyable activities. Stay connected with family and friends.
• Be prepared. Understanding yourself, your needs, and your “signals” will help you to be attuned to how you are reacting to the changes that you are going through. Get ahead of things to the extent possible. The situation will, no doubt, continue to evolve but you can find some comfort in being in control of what you can influence.
Most importantly, if you feel that it is becoming too much to handle on your own, seek help.
Aimee Tsikitas, LCSW, is Director of Mental Health Treatment Services for Community Services Group (CSG). Aimee is a graduate of Catholic University of America, where she received an MSW. Aimee became a Licensed Social Worker in 2001 and earned her Clinical Social Work license in 2003.