Almost an entire year into a worldwide pandemic, you may be feeling more stressed than ever. COVID-19 has made life different for everyone. From social distancing to virtual learning, everything has changed. Our routine isn’t what we were used to, and that can come with challenges.
If you find yourself struggling, finding a mental health counselor who can help you through this tough time is essential, even through a screen.
You wouldn’t just brush off a broken arm, would you? So why would you ignore your mental health? Your brain is your most complex and important organ. You have to take care of it.
The Impact of COVID on Mental Health
The world has been turned upside-down in the last year, from social distancing to having to go through virtual learning. All these changes are making it rougher for mental health than normal everyday life.
It’s no secret that a pandemic is rough on mental health. It’s been documented before that a pandemic will see a rise in mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and even OCD. There has been a rise happening with mental health issues because of the isolation, social distancing, and virtual learning and work.
Social Distancing & Isolation
One of the first things that happened in many places was the closure of non-essential businesses and schools all over the United States. People were told that staying home and only going out when needed was going to help prevent the spread of the virus. All restaurants were closed to dine-in, and other social gatherings were put on hold till further notices.
There are reported issues that come with social isolation, which is where we are now. People are feeling the adverse effects of what is our new normal. There has been a rise of about 37% in mental health issues ranging from anxiety to depression during this quarantine.
The biggest worry is that of suicidal ideation during this time. Isolation is a risk factor for suicide, and being forced to be in isolation can increase the thoughts that lead to it. This is why talking to a mental health professional is vital.
If you are finding yourself in a dark place, find a counselor in your area. These times are hard, and having someone to talk to is going to be essential. If you aren’t able to contact a counselor, then reach out to your family and friends. You may not be able to see them in person but use FaceTime and Zoom to meet people. Your mental health is so important, and you have to take care of yourself, even in isolation.
There are many children out there that are still doing virtual learning. Your child may be one of them, and you can see them struggling. Many parents are worried about their child falling behind in social and emotional development during this time.
It's a valid worry. Children need to have one another to thrive and grow into adults later on. Zoom classroom isn’t the same as being in a school, but it is better than nothing. Make sure your child is logging into the meetings and participating. This is going to help them in the long run, and if they are struggling, talk to the teacher yourself. For special needs children, this virtual learning is more challenging. IEPs and other learning accommodations aren’t easy when it comes to a virtual classroom.
Now, as children start going back to the building, there are even more worries. For students with social anxiety, it may be heightened after being in isolation for so long. Take it easy on them and try and work with them to know it is okay. This virus is scary but wearing the mask, washing your hands, and staying six feet apart is helping.
Finding a mental health professional that can help with these worries will be vital in helping those who struggle. Being able to talk to someone who understands is going to be helpful in the long run.
Losing a job during COVID-19 has been at an all-time high. This is a tough place to consider that have not only jobs been lost, but also insurance. This takes a toll on anyone’s mental health, not knowing how we can get the help we need.
The less money you make, the worse the impact is when it comes to losing a job. It is a scary place to be when you don’t know how you will afford to take care of your health.
Take the time to research what you can do if you lose your job and insurance. While it isn’t ideal, COBRA is an option if you can afford it. Your mental health should come first when dealing with something as stressful as a pandemic.
Mental Health Check
It is essential to check in on your mental health and those around you. There are many signs to take in, and while some are subtle, others are loud and in your face. Here are some of the signs to look out for that may be signs you need to see a professional.
Those are just some of the signs that you may need to check in with a professional. Remember, your brain sometimes needs some extra help-- it can get "sick" just like any other part of your physical body. This pandemic is taking a toll on everyone, and you shouldn’t have to feel like you are going at it alone.
It isn’t easy right now in the world. That is clear as day. If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out. It doesn’t mean you are weak or broken-- it means you courageous and you care. We are here to help. Your mental health matters.
Contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed counselors today.
Written by Tia Kitchens for Banyan Tree Counseling & Wellness. Holding a degree in Psychology from Capella University, Tia is a writer with a passion for psychology and learning. In her free time she enjoys being with animals and hopes to work with therapy animals in the future. Ultimately, she aspires to spread awareness about the importance of mental health.
Our awesome therapist Amber Garcia shares some easy techniques to help you manage anxiety. These tips are great for all ages. Hope you find it helpful!
I recently came across this article about motivating children who lack motivation. One of the points the author describes made me pause. She asks the parent what motivates their child? What does he really want? What questions can I ask that will help him discover and explore his interests? What are his goals and ambitions?
Encouraging children requires you as a parent to step far enough away to see your child as a separate person. With all our good intentions, it is easy to become wrapped up in the stress of every day life and forget our children are not mini-me's, but are separate people with different preferences, different ways of thinking, feeling, and doing things.
For a child to feel motivated they must first feel seen. They must feel that their voice matters. That their parent takes the time to really listen-- not to what you want the answers to be, but to what your child is really saying. And if the answers happen to not line up with who you are, respect them, even if you disagree.
I read this "66 Positive Things To Say To Your Child" post today, and wrote down the ones I regularly say to my children, and the things I'm going to try. to say more often. It was a good reminder to see my children as their own separate selves that I must continue to learn and understand as they grow.
Encouraging things I say often:
#2: You make me proud.
#6: You don't have to be perfect to be great.
#17: You were right. (Especially if I had previously told them they were not!)
#37: I trust you.
#38: That was a really good choice.
#63: I love you.
Here's what I'm going to try to say more of:
#19: We can try it your way.
#34: I admire you.
#44: Thank you for being you.
#60: I'm listening.
#65: You are enough.
What are some things you say now vs. what you'd like to say more of to encourage your child and help them be the beautiful little people that they are?
If your body parts could talk, what would they say?
I've used this worksheet with my own children, with students I've taught, and with clients, both children and adults. Teaching kids to "tune in" to their bodies is an essential skill and doesn't always come naturally.
There are so many benefits to learning this skill! One is emotional regulation-- kids who can listen to their body have an easier time managing and coping with their feelings, especially the really big ones, like anger, disappointment, fear, frustration, guilt, sadness.. .
They feel more capable, confident, have a more secure sense of self.
They have less behavioral problems, better social skills with peers, more empathy and supportive relationships...
It's not just a skill for kids., Adults benefit in similar ways, too, with overall mental stability, positive sense of self, solid relationships, increased career satisfaction.
Take a moment today to tune inward,. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7, and slowly release for 8. Then scan your body and really listen to what each body part is telling you. Maybe some are silent, while others are screaming!
That's ok, no judgement.
All you have to do is listen.
Click to download the PDF to use at home.
We're living through a significant time in history. This interactive packet helps parents talk with with their kids about the impact coronavirus has on their lives, and create a "time capsule" to document this experience to look back on.
You can download the free printable below. It was originally created by Long Creations, who deserves many thanks for sharing!
as you watch the blazing fire
burn down everything
you've ever loved
the ashes will nourish
the barren and
fertilize the soil
you will realize this
as you stroll through
your garden of flowers.
Of course there is a time of afternoon, out there in the yard,
an hour that has never been described.
There is the way the warm air feels
among the flagstones and the tropical plants
with their dark, leathery green leaves.
There is a gap you never noticed,
dug out between the gravel and the rock, where something lives.
There is a bird that can only be heard by someone
who has come to be alone.
Now you are getting used to things that will not be happening again.
Never to be pushed down onto the bed again, laughing,
and have your clothes unbuttoned.
Never to stand up in the rear
of the pickup truck and scream, as you blast out of town.
This life that rushes over everything,
like water or like wind, and wears it down until it shines.
Now you sit on the brick wall in the cloudy afternoon and swing your legs,
happy because there never has been a word for this,
as you continue moving through these days and years
where more and more the message is
not to measure anything.
I am occasionally approached by college students interested in learning more about what it takes to become a licensed psychotherapist. Here is a recent interview; I really enjoyed answering the questions. I thought I would post it in hopes that perhaps it might inspire others thinking of pursuing this career!
1) Why did you choose this career?
It's possible that my childhood had something to do with it. As a kid, I suffered from anxiety (which in my early adult life transformed into depression). At one point I was diagnosed with asthma attacks, even though what I was really having was panic attacks due to anxiety. I was 8 when my parents divorced and engaged in a lengthy and difficult custody battle. I was put into counseling with a court-appointed therapist to help determine the custody ruling and visitation schedule. I hated it. I felt misunderstood and unsupported. I think that was the first seed planted in my mind. I thought, "What if I could do this when I'm older? For kids like me, and actually help them?" I remember thinking that since I had been through it, then I'd know what they'd need. When I graduated college, I became an elementary school teacher. It was fulfilling, but not quite in the way I had hoped. I wanted to be able to dig deeper into a person's life; to learn how our brains work and gain skills to help people emotionally and behaviorally.
2) Describe what you do in a typical work day?
I try to arrive at least 30 mins to 1hr early to get settled in and review the treatment plan and the patients' notes from previous sessions. One thing I feel is important in this career is the ability to leave your own personal "stuff" at the door. I usually say a small prayer of thanks for having the opportunity to do this sacred important work. I light a candle and set my intentions for the day, which includes freeing my mind from any of my own personal baggage that I may have going on at the time.
3) What kind of schedule do you typically have?
Since I own a solo private practice, I get to make my own schedule (which is pretty great, especially since I have kids)! I work two days per week, from about 9am to 8pm. It sounds like a long day, but I have a few breaks midday. Each session is 45-50 minutes long. I typically have about 6-8 clients per day. I see a wide range of folks: children, teens, college-aged students, adults, couples, and families. My niche is in children and families, but I truly enjoy the variety.
4) At this company, what are a few of the entry-level and/or advanced positions?
I currently own a solo practice, but in the future (maybe when my kids are all in school!) I would like to expand to hire other therapists, a receptionist/scheduler, and insurance biller.
5) What do you wish you had known about your career before your started working here?
I didn't realize how long it would take to actually become a licensed therapist able to open a private practice. It took me 9 years from the start of graduate school in psychology, to opening the doors of my private practice. I also didn't realize how difficult this job is. The burn-out rate is high. You have to practice consistent self-care.
6) How well did your education prepare you for this career?
It prepared me fairly well, although most of what it takes to be a good therapist cannot be found in a book, or be taught by a professor. It takes a lot of hands-on practice. I was probably not such a great therapist when I started. I look back at some of the things I said to clients when I first started and I'm embarrassed! It takes a lot of practice, mistakes, good supervision, and mentoring. One thing my schooling did NOT prepare me for is how to open and run my own business. I think counseling psychology programs should require at least one course in business management. I had to figure it all out on my own. I'm still learning!
7) What work–related values are most important for this field?
Support from other therapists in the field is important. Most therapists I know (no matter how long they've been practicing) regularly touch base with a therapist who has been practicing longer than they have for consultation. In this job, making ethical decisions can be tough. It's important to have other therapists on speed-dial that you trust.
8) What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
As a therapist, being emotionally present with a client and going into the dark and difficult places with them is extremely challenging and painful. It's important to do your own work personally, as in, having your own therapist to work through your own inner conflicts and past traumas. No therapist can be effective without doing this. A mentor once told me "you can only take your clients as far as you've been." I've done a lot of work on myself in the past decade, but it's a lifetime process. I see my own therapist every other week!
9) What advice do you have for someone who wants to begin working in your career field?
Make sure you have a fantastic ethics professor and supervisor/mentor (as well as malpractice insurance)! Legal and ethical issues come up all the time. Also, it's important to have someone mentoring you who can help you with boundaries. Keeping appropriate boundaries as a therapist is difficult, and it's tested frequently. In the first several years, you're going to need a lot of good supervision around boundary issues.
10) Can you please include a brief description of your educational path, as well as employment leading up to owning your own business?
My first career was an elementary school teacher, which I did for a few years out of college. I went to graduate school at the University of San Francisco and graduated in 2008 with an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. I completed my 2 year internship as a school counselor. After that, I got a job in a wilderness therapy program counseling teen girls in West Virginia. From there, I worked at an agency providing case management and therapy in Intensive In-Home Services program (a Medicaid-funded program where a team of therapists provide individual and family therapy inside a child's home, most times when the child is at risk for being removed due to violence, substance abuse issues, etc.) From there, I moved and took a job providing counseling services in several schools, as well as a local pediatric office.
The effects of sleep on a child's mental health can sometimes be underrated. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is an integral part of a healthy life, especially when it comes to our emotional and behavioral health. Now that the new school year is upon us, check out these handy charts to help set your child's bedtime!
Throughout my adult years I have developed fairly passionate political views. Yet, I refuse to be so presumptuous as to think that those views will never change. As a psychotherapist, I want to share a few words from my humble point of view that may be of help during this time of political unrest and frustration.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We could all stand to hone our empathy skills right about now.
What can it hurt to step outside of your own personal (insert presidential candidate here) viewbox for a moment and delve into understanding the reasons why others may be supporting a candidate other than the one you do? One of the reasons I refrain from unfriending folks who share posts on Facebook/social media that I don't agree with right off the bat (even though it often makes me REALLY uncomfortable and even downright ANGRY to see these posts I disagree with so passionately), is because attempting to understand them will ultimately make us better, more educated, kind, loving, and joyful people.
Perhaps this personality trait to understand is one of the things that has propelled me toward my profession in psychology; I always held a strong desire to understand the hows and whys of what people around the world think and feel. And throughout all these years, what I've learned is simple: with all of our differences, we're all pretty much the same when you get down to it. You can learn this, too.
I get it-- it's scary to step outside of your comfort zone once you've made your mind up about something, to try and understand an opposing viewpoint can seem downright brutal. I know it feels like you're betraying yourself, your morals, ethics, and even your religion or family.
I want to tell you something we all need to be reminded of: IT'S NOT. Educating yourself about things you do not currently believe is one of the most healthy and positive things you can do for yourself. Notice I said for yourself. Don't do it for your friends, your family, your spouse. Do it for you. Because YOU are the one who will benefit from this newfound way of looking at the world. You will grow. You will become a more loving and happy person.
I know these things because, for one, when I do this, I am happier for it. When I don't, I'm not. I've spent most of my adult life studying the way people think in higher institutions, enveloped in the field of psychology by respected scholars, researchers, and clinical practitioners. Trust me on this for a moment-- it WILL help you grow and change into a better person. And if you don't believe me, do your own research. I encourage it.
Have you ever been faced with a truth about yourself from someone you love and it really ticks you off? After awhile you think about it and realize that perhaps there is some truth to it? One of the reasons we balk at opposing sides is because if we really open up and try to understand a different point of view, we are forced to take a good look at ourselves, too. Our believe system can be challenged, everything we've built our lives on. That can be pretty scary (an understatement!). But listen, in a nutshell, I'm here to tell you that it's okay to be scared. Don't fight against your fear; it is there for a purpose. You can, however, be curious about it. Where does this fear come from? What does it say about me? What would happen if this fear one day came to fruition? What are all the things I do and believe every day that keep me from feeling this fear?
We can't choose our feelings, but we can choose how we respond to them. One choice leads to a life of closed-mindedness, anger, frustration, sadness, and more fear. The other opens the door to a whole new world of possibilities, freedom, and joy. It may be painful at first, but the rewards are immense. The choice is yours.
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." -Aristotle
Chantal D. Hayes