TEWKSBURY — The year 2020 has been a rough year for everyone and taken a toll on mental health. More than ever, it is important to maintain emotional health and wellness. Over the course of the past five months, children, adolescents, and adults alike have had to fight their own mental battles as we all come to terms with the “new normal.”
For children, times like these can bring confusion and anxiety. Try to calmly explain what’s going on, in a way that they understand. In the summer days, encourage them to play outside and do things they enjoy. If they are sad that they are missing out on special events, like birthday parties, explain there are ways their day can still be special. One unique example being scheduled zoom calls with their favorite characters, or the ever popular birthday parades.
If you have a teen, encourage them to reach out to their friends, whether it's through virtual hangouts, Zoom, or other forms of social media. For children and teens, it is important for them to understand that their feelings are valid, and that it is OK to be upset and frustrated.
Many adults have set up virtual hangouts with family, too. Some fun examples have been game nights or happy hour on Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts.
In times like these, it is important to check up on those we care about. Call your loved ones, and make sure they are doing OK. The National Suicide Hotline, as well as the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health suggests to “connect with loved ones and others who may be experiencing stress about the outbreak. Talk about your feelings and enjoy conversation unrelated to the outbreak.”
A good tip for all, as hard as it is, is to take breaks from social media, or step away from the news. With the current political and social climate, it can be mentally exhausting to spend the day scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, to debate and argue on Facebook, or to constantly watch the news and COVID-19 numbers rising.
As important as it is to keep ourselves updated and informed, taking a step back and taking a breath can do wonders. The Suicide Prevention Hotline states that “limiting media consumption” will help decrease “emotional distress.”
Additionally, take this time to take up a new hobby, or spend time on something you enjoy. Whether you meditate, paint, or tend to a garden, a hobby is a great way to clear your mind of stress and pass the time.
Make sure you maintain a healthy diet and sleep schedule, and exercise. The Suicide Prevention Hotline emphasizes the importance of “stay(ing) active. Make sure to get enough sleep and rest. Stay hydrated and avoid excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol. Eat healthy foods when possible.”
Good resources for mental health assistance are the Network of Care Massachusetts website, which lists updated services in the Massachusetts area for all ages. Additionally, Mass.gov has a section of its website dedicated to mental health through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the many mental health clinics in Tewksbury include Lahey Behavioral Health Services, Tewksbury Mental Health Associates, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Torres-Vega Counseling LLC and the Northeast Center For Life Management.
Mass.gov gives two hotlines for mental health resources. Massachusetts 2-1-1, which can be reached through either the phone (211), or their website. And MassSupport, which offers free COVID-19 counseling and support. They can be reached via phone (1-888-215-4920), email, (MassSupport@riversidecc.org) or the MassSupport website.
The Suicide Prevention Hotline is open 24/7 at the phone number (1-800-273-8255). Additionally, the national Disaster Distress Helpline is available to anyone experiencing emotional distress related to COVID-19. To reach them, you can check their website, call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
Even though we may be physically far away, and the reopening process is slow, it is important to remember that you are never alone, and that there are people and resources that will help get us through these times together.