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Bad Days, COVID-19, and Help

By: Nancy Proctor, Breaking Through Task Force Member

I’ve been categorized as part of the vulnerable older population. COVID has made me anxious and depressed. I don’t think the category matters, everyone feels a bit anxious and depressed. Whether you are single, have financial difficulties, lost your employment or you are trying to educate your kids at home, it has been a very difficult year. Even if you are a normally well adjusted, robust, steady person, you have probably been experiencing a lot of anxiety. And if you have mental illness problems, Covid has most likely made it worse. You are not alone.

According to a recent Census Bureau survey in the last few months, more than 42% of people surveyed reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. Last year that number was 11%. Young adults, people with young children, and people with a previously diagnosed psychiatric disorder are most vulnerable. Here is a scary fact: 62.9 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds reported an anxiety or depressive disorder, a quarter said they were using more drugs and alcohol to cope with pandemic-related stress, and a quarter said they had “seriously considered suicide” in the previous 30 days.

Social distancing can make us feel isolated. Illness or fear of illness, economic insecurity, disruption of routine and loss of loved ones are known risk factors. These challenges can be stressful, overwhelming and strong emotion like anger and frustration. Stress and depression affects your body. Do any of these changes sound familiar?

  • Changes in appetite, energy, interests

  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions

  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares

  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes

  • Worsening of chronic health problems

  • Worsening of mental health conditions

  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances

Bad Days. We all have them. Here are few things I’ve tried on bad days. They don’t work 100% of the time, but they help.

Post how you are feeling on Facebook. Or ask for a check-in. A friend shared this with me. After posting how she was feeling more than 200 of her friends responded with their own painful confessions. Almost as quickly as one friend would acknowledge a condition, someone else would volunteer: “me too.” So many of us think we are the “only one.” That we’re by ourselves, invisible. I find it comforting that many of my friends are finding connection with each other through social media. We need to make ourselves visible.

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed, but hearing about the pandemic constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple times a day and disconnecting from phone, television and computer screens for a while.

Get plenty of sleep. Try to have routine sleep patterns.

Walk and exercise.

Eat healthy.

Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. I like Zoom meetings with their grids of faces. It is so much better than sitting in the back row. I’ve attended meetings in Raleigh, Washington, DC, and Idaho. I see some friends weekly.

Keep a journal. Research shows that expressive writing helps people process difficult emotions and find meaning. “If you're worrying about COVID too much, try writing about it.”

You don’t have to do all of this alone. You can get help. Our County and State have provided amazing resources. Use them. Even if you don’t have health insurance or can’t find a provider, you can use the services below. You are not alone.

Below is a great list of resources available. Asking for help is not a burden nor a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of humanness. Possibly, you can make it through without help, but why should you? You might survive alone, but you need others to flourish. What better place to be human than on the Outer Banks. Check out the Breaking Through Task Force COVID-19 Resource Guide.

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