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Expert advice on pandemic mental health issues

The global pandemic that requires people to cover a good portion of their faces, stand far away from friends, family, customers, co-workers and students, and wash hands incessantly, has elevated anxieties, fears and phobias. Scientific American in June conveyed, “From the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, experts and media have warned of a mounting mental health crisis as people contend with a pandemic that has upended their lives.”

Mental Health America Aug. 14 offered a free webinar that addressed rising concerns and phobias.

“Some are concerned that they cannot trust any situation, so the fight or flight syndrome kicks in,” said Karen Lynn Cassiday, Ph.D., past president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “People just don’t know what to do, and that can be very difficult to manage.”

She advised:

1. “Accept there is no such thing as a perfect decision and action during this pandemic.”
2. Consider: “What is the price you are paying by fleeing or fighting? What has been the cost to your mental wellness?”
3. Start a gratitude journal. “I recommend this to all my patients all the time. Write three things down every day that you are grateful for. Write them down instead of keyboarding them.”
4. Laugh. “Find the funny in the pandemic.” Cassiday suggested asking family members or friends to find and share weekly a humorous YouTube video, meme or gif. Also: Think about the “funniest thing that’s happened to you today. We need good belly laughs about the absurdity of our current situation.”

An example of a help strategy for someone with agoraphobia, informed Cleveland Clinic in June, is “graded exposure,” or slowly exposing oneself to situations, people and places that have been avoided.

Filtering incoming information is another key step, Cleveland Clinic noted. Too much time spent watching the news and/or perusing social media can lead to elevated levels of anxiety.

Teletherapy is advised for people who have persistent issues, according to Scientific American. But people experiencing panic attacks, depression or thoughts of suicide should immediately contact a physician.