INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — As the nation struggles to adjust to a new normal in light of the COVID-19 crisis, mental health is perhaps more important than ever and May comes at a critical time when we observe Mental Health Awareness Month.
This is an especially critical time to check in on our loved ones and ourselves to see how we’re coping. So much abruptly changed in the middle of March and as we mark nearly two months since the nation hit pause, some people are struggling and suicide has becoming a growing concern.
One part of the transition involves working from home. Video conference calls have become a staple in many industries, but for people who don’t like to be on camera, that can cause some anxiety.
Kimble Richardson, a licensed mental health counselor with Community Health, offers a tip in overcoming this fear.
“Especially if it is a larger meeting, people can’t pay attention to all those pictures at once, so the idea that someone is actually going to be looking at or staring at you are pretty slim,” Richardson said. “If it is just a couple of people at a meeting, then you might think of it as picturing yourself as in the room.”
If you’re still feeling anxious,he recommends that you have a trusted co-worker or friend you can message during the meeting for inspiration.
After the video conferences are over, it can be easy to lose track of the day. Since we’re working from home, we may take a break, visit with our family or play with our pet.
That delicate balance between freedom and structure can create a challenge to get work done on time and stay within normal time frames.
“Sometimes, they are hard to do if we are working from home, and that line between being at home and being at work is blurred and that is keeping a really good schedule, making sure you get up at a certain time, and I even suggest putting on your work clothes. It makes you feel like you are at work,” Richardson said.
He also recommends setting timers or alarms to also help you keep your day on track, which can help to prevent potential conflict later.
Chances are, working from home also means we’re spending more time with our partner. While that can cause a little friction, it may be difficult to tell how our loved one is coping with this new normal.
“Some things to be aware of in a partner to know that they are struggling are excesses in either way; if somebody is withdrawing from their normal level of engagement or conversely, if they’re a little more irritable than normal,” Richardson said.
He said to also keep an eye on hygiene, eating, alcohol, sleep and relaxation habits. If they’ve changed in an extreme way, it could be a sign your partner is having trouble.
If you live alone, Richardson offers this list to know if you’re struggling:
- Lack of hygiene
- Failure to reach out to friends and family members as you would normally do
- Mood swings
- Low energy level
- Personal relationships being affected
- Quality of work
It is a good idea to do a mental health assessment. That also includes looking at your sleep and eating habits.
He also said it is important to stay social in these challenging times because friends and family will often be the first ones to notice if we seem upset.
In children, the biggest sign of struggling and depression is anger.
“A pretty obvious sign is if your child isn’t keeping up with their homework, that’s objective, and you can tell if they are completing tasks or not,” Richardson said. “This is when it’s really helpful to teach your child some task management and time management to keep that structure.”
If your child is more irritated or bothered, that could be a sign a bigger conversation is needed. Click here for a resource guide.
Richardson said while we may be socially-distancing from our parents, daily check-ins are even more important.
“It’s very important that we maintain at least the contact that we’ve had if not a little bit more and even if it’s just a few minutes a day to check in, whether that’s a phone call or a text,” he said.
If your parents don’t answer messages or the phone as they normally did, that’s a sign they’re struggling. Also, if they answer with a simple “fine” and don’t elaborate, Richardson suggests pressing them for answers and if a video call isn’t available, consider a socially-distant, in-person visit.