As we enter a new year, it can feel like not too much has changed. The stress we continue to face going into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on communities of color attempting to deal with emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. When coupled with pre-existing racial disparities in physical and mental health, along with other life stressors, we may feel like giving up.
We may also feel overwhelmed by the amount of information given to us by healthcare systems that we do not trust for reasons such as unethical practices and misdiagnoses in our communities. Historically, doctors have misdiagnosed African Americans at a higher rate than our white counterparts. When we say historically, this means not only what happened four centuries ago but also last week’s history because this behavior is still happening in these “modern times.”
In addition to the mistrust of health care systems, there are pre-existing conditions of unemployment, financial instability, food insecurities, physical illness, and access barriers. Due to these social inequities, coexisting with this pandemic not only means we must survive it but also be resilient.
Many of us have been taught to develop a survivalist mentality, which does not allow space to process our emotions. Unfortunately, some of us may view addressing our mental health needs and seeking professional help as a weakness. So, how do we shift the culture and make seeking help okay?
We can start by acknowledging that feeling overwhelmed or thinking that you don’t have the strength to handle these feelings is natural and OK. Both children and adults can experience increased anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed due to the added stress of COVID-19. Anxiety, extreme sadness, anger, violence, social isolation, and thoughts of suicide can all be results of stress.
Right now, adults might be experiencing:
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Lack of motivation
- Extreme mistrust, suspiciousness, or paranoia
- Loss of interests
- Feelings of wanting to control everything
- Trouble concentrating or remembering things
- Headaches, stomach aches, or body aches
- Thoughts of harming self or suicide
Common behaviors in children and teens include:
- Moodiness or irritability
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in socialization or social isolation
- School performance below their potential
- Unexplained complaints about how they feel physically
- Regression, or acting much younger than their age
- Thoughts of harming self or suicide
If you find yourself continuing to feel stressed, it’s not just you! The brain eventually gets tired and overworked from long periods of stress, making it harder to make the best decisions and manage daily activities. Right now, we can start empowering ourselves to take control over our health by educating ourselves and others on mental wellness.
If you are not feeling like yourself, take a moment to do a mental health self-check.
- Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
- Seek trusted resources that identify signs that could be associated with a mental condition.
- Check yourself and see if what you’re experiencing is out of the ordinary and aligns with the identified signs of mental condition.
- Get help from a mental health professional if you notice your signs can be linked to a possible mental condition.
For more tips on mental wellness and stress reduction activities, tune in to Coping with COVID: Behavioral Health Podcast from Kira Mauseth, Ph.D. and Doug Dicharry, MD.
If you are in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-273-8255. Press 1 for the Veterans Helpline. You could also get help by texting “HEAL” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or contacting Lifeline Crisis Chat.
If you’re under 21, you can call Teen Link at 866-TEENLINK (866-833-6546) and ask to talk to a peer. Visit the Hotlines, text, and chat resources for more information.
This blog is accurate as of the date of posting. Information changes rapidly, so check the state’s COVID-19 website for the most up-to-date info at coronavirus.wa.gov. You can also sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles.
The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to everyone 5 and older. For more information about the vaccine, visit CovidVaccineWA.org and use the vaccine locator tool to find an appointment. The COVID-19 vaccine is provided at no cost to you.
WA Notify can alert you if you’ve been near another user who tested positive for COVID-19. Add WA Notify to your phone today: WANotify.org
Answers to your questions or concerns about COVID-19 in Washington State may be found on our website. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.