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Education Written by Breann Lujan-Halcon and Desi Salmons

Finding Mental Balance

Times of crisis can be a major blow to one's mental health; during a global pandemic, the effects are felt worldwide.

In recent months, public health has been a top priority worldwide. 

Coronavirus has changed the way we work, learn, socialize and grocery shop. No one has gone unaffected by the widespread virus. As you continue to prioritize the health of you and your family, don’t let mental health take a backseat. 

How do we take care of our mental health in these stressful times? What does self-care look like when stuck at home? How can we keep kids from feeling our stress? We wanted answers, so we turned to an expert. 

Ivinson’s Mental Health Therapist Desi Salmons sat down to discuss mental health matters and how you can better care for your overall health. Desi has been helping individuals with mental health illnesses for over 20 years, 18 of those years spent right here at Ivinson. 

I do the therapy up here, some assessments as well as the discharge planning.” Aside from assessments, individual and group therapy in her role as a therapist, Desi also teaches mental health education including illness education, treating mental illness and coping skills.

Ask an Expert

Q: What is mental health?

A: From a clinical standpoint, mental health is the absence of mental health diagnoses, but also it is about healthy balance in your life. Being free from drugs and alcohol, if you are going to use alcohol, use in moderation. Being able to cope effectively with the stressors in your life. 

Just like physical illness, with mental health illnesses, anyone can have them. What mental illness is not, is experiencing normal uncomfortable emotions. Everybody has anxiety, everybody has sadness, everybody has guilt and shame, those are normal to experience those. We do not want to regard these emotions as psychologically abnormal or unhealthy.

Q: What impact on mental health have you seen from COVID-19?

A: Mostly, it is from an increase in isolation, which is healthy that we are not exposing ourselves to the illness and decreasing our risk for exposure but I think it is hard for a lot of people to have that increase in isolation and not being able to meet with their family and friends. We can do a lot of connecting through social media but it’s really not the same. It is not a replacement of being able to go out and see friends and family. Physical distancing measures can be particularly hard on our elderly population, because they are so susceptible to illness they are staying home more and family can’t visit them and it’s hard. 

In addition to the isolation, people may be experiencing an increase in sadness from not having those connections. Just watching it on the news too much increases people’s stress. It’s important to have moderation with alcohol but also with the news. It is okay to turn off the TV and not listen in 247.

Q: Do you think crisis makes it easier/​harder to talk about mental health?

A: I think that we talk about it more because more people are struggling with managing emotions. But having sadness from isolation is not necessarily a mental illness, its difficult managing sadness because you are isolated and anybody would feel that. We don’t want to pathologize the normal reactions in kind of an abnormal situation. This is difficult for people to cope with but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mental health issue. 

Q: What does it mean to take care of your mental health?

A: Taking care of yourself, trying to maintain some balance. Using healthy ways to manage the normal stress that can come from this situation. Because you are isolated, you need to do a little bit more self-care. You need to find other ways to exercise. You just need to find some extra ways to take care of yourself so that you deal with uncomfortable emotions in an effective way. 

Find a healthy balance, get enough exercise, make sure you are getting enough sleep, try to keep yourself on a schedule, make healthy meal choices, keep in contact socially as much as you can, whether it’s through social media or a good old fashioned phone call to your loved ones. Try to set a goal for yourself on a daily basis. It could just be cleaning out a closet or doing some gardening just have an activity to add to the structure of your day so that you are keeping productive, I think that is really important for mental health. 

Q: What can parents do to support their child(ren)’s mental health?

A: Try not to focus too much on the virus. You want to keep your kids informed but you don’t want to be hyper focused on it. If you are anxious, try not to share that too much with children that might not be able to process that. If they are having their own anxiety then certainly listen to it but also, you should normalize it. It’s a stressful time. 

Try to get a routine, make sure your kids have activates to do. If you can go out and get some exercise with your kids, maintain social distancing, it’s really important. Exercise is very healthy and extremely important for children. Make sure you have games and fun times with your kids and truly try to focus on the positives, of all the extra family time your get to spend with them.

Q: What local resources are available for those seeking professional help?

A: We don’t want to pathologize normal healthy emotions, but if you are feeling hopeless, if you are feeling unable to cope with this situation, if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or if you are using alcohol in a way that is unhealthy to try to cope, then absolutely reach out for professional help. I would look at our local agencies such as Peak Wellness Center, the Clinic for Mental Health and Wellness and the SAFE Project. Reach out for support, especially if you are not coping well. Reach out to us if you are feeling unsafe or if you are abusing substances to the point that you cannot quit, especially alcohol. If you start to have any suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help.

Talk to someone who can help

Wyoming Suicide Hotline: (800)-SUICIDE (7842433)

National Suicide Hotline: (800)-TALK (8255)

Peak Wellness 24 hour Emergency Service: (307) 7458915

Laramie Youth Crisis Center: (307) 7425936

Laramie Police Department: (307) 7212526

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