Learn about how quarantine can affect you and your children and some tips to overcome it, as well as how to adjust back to “normal living” post quarantine from a mental healthcare professional.
As we all know, COVID-19 is having numerous effects around the world. From people losing their jobs to business shutting down and closing their doors to thousands of people losing their lives. It’s what we see and hear all over the news and on social media.
One thing I haven’t seen being talked about is how being in quarantine and social distancing ourselves can affect our mental health and even our children’s. So I took it upon myself to reach out to a professional to ask some important questions on how we can look for signs of mental health decline and tips to cope with being in quarantine as well as how to adjust to life post-quarantine. Check out the interview below with Chelseyah Bolden, M.S., LPC-Intern (under the clinical supervision fo Corrina Herrera, LPC-S) and her opinion on how being in quarantine can affect our mental health and ways to cope!
Interview with Chelseyah Bolden, M.S., LPC-Intern
Under the Clinical Supervision of Corrina Herrera, LPC-S
J: Hi Chelseyah, Thank you so much for doing this interview with me. Could you please tell us about yourself?
C:Hi Julianna! Well, my name is Chelseyah and I’m a native Houstonian. I am twenty-six years old. I am an auntie, sister, best friend, partner, I identify with the LBGTQIA+ community, advocator, and therapist. I decided to get my master’s in clinical mental health counseling and a license as an LPC-Intern because I was more interested in directly interacting with people and helping them process their emotions and experiences. Before COVID-19 my hobbies included going out to brunch, hanging out with my friends, yoga classes, and writing for myself. Now that we’re in COVID-19 I’m finding that my coping skills are now my “hobbies.”
J: Could you please clarify for me and anyone reading what is mental health & wellness?
C:Well, to keep it simple I will separate the two terms. Mental health typically refers to your wellbeing and is measured by your ability to adapt and cope with stressors, traumatic events, or mental
health diagnoses such as Depression, Anxiety (or the bigger known diagnoses like Bipolar Disorder or schizophrenia). When we think of mental health we want to aspire to maintain a baseline, a state of not being too up (excited/agitated) or too down(unresponsive/depressed).
Mental wellness, however, reaches a broader audience. This can include people who may be neurodivergent, have a physical or genetic difference that can impact a person’s cognition. To be direct, I’m saying this includes people with physical and mental disabilities or trauma. People who have a disability are often forgotten or overlooked when we talk about mental health and frankly, that is not fair. I think the term mental wellness is important because it does not forget people who may need more support.
J: So how can being in isolation or in quarantine negatively impact someone?
C: I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll speak on what I’ve observed in my clients and myself. Isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, sadness, or depressed mood (if sadness is longer than a 2-week period), paranoia and can even impact self-esteem. Human beings are meant to be social, so having to conduct life without being social can feel like it’s going against nature.
J: What are the warning signs someone should look out for if they feel like their mental health or their child’s mental health is declining?
C: This is a little difficult for me to give a general answer since, here comes a cliché, everyone is different. The common warning signs I think people can notice are: deviating from your routine, loss of motivation, loss of ability to concentrate, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, intense emotions, and withdrawing from others.
In children, however, signs of mental health concerns look SOO DIFFERENT. In children, I’m referring to the little ones, this can look like an increase in tantrums (frustration, anger outbursts or defiant behavior in older children), clinginess, scared/mistrust of others, a decrease in talking, regression in milestones(i.e. potty training abilities), and being scared or tired of being outside (10 minutes in going “mommy can we go back inside”). We have to remember that children have their own mental health and they are currently figuring out themselves as they grow and observe us. Just because they don’t have the words to express themselves doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.
J: What are some ways people and cope with being in quarantine and how can they help their children cope?
C: I’ll start with the kids first or else I’ll forget my train of thought.
- Regularly check in with them and reassure them that they are safe and loved.
- Maintaining a routine provides consistency and allows for the child to have an idea of what to expect next.
- Taking time to play, just play, with your children can be helpful.
For everyone, identifying the emotion your feeling and giving yourself space to feel that feeling helps it pass along. This is called being mindful. Quarantine is an uncomfortable situation and you have every right to feel sad, trapped, scared, or frustrated. This is a BIG change and it takes time to adjust to change, especially when it’s uncertain how long this change will be. Just like kids, adults need routines too. Trying your best to develop and stick to a routine can help you with scheduling your time and even motivation to an extent. Being aware that life will still move forward even though times are hard right now is also a mindfulness tip.
I feel like I’m rambling so to prevent that here’s a list of some coping tools.
- Be mindful of your emotions and current situation
- Disconnect or limit your news and social media intake
- Exercise. It releases serotonin and endorphins (your brain likes these; they make the brain happy). Start small if you’re like me and out of shape.
- It’s okay to go outside and get fresh air and be in the sun, but PLEASE do so with the proper precautions.
- Try something that is a process. Processes can be rhythmic and allow your mind to clear while you focus on the task. A process can be something like coloring, drawing, painting, Lego building, sewing, sudoku, or cooking.
- Maintain a routine
- Check-in with your partner, family members, roommates, or whomever you are quarantined with if you are quarantined with someone.
- Reach out to your friends, family, and support system over the phone or video call.
- Treat yourself, responsibly.
- Finally, give yourself some grace or slack. You are doing the best you can.
J: Lastly, with Texas opening back up and many other states following suit, how can people safely adjust to post-quarantine/normal life?
C: The weird thing about this question is, we don’t know yet if we can “return” to normal or if we will have a new normal. With that being said, it’s really important to give yourself a grace period to ease into either route. Expecting things to switch overnight can be overwhelming. I’m going to do the list thing so I don’t ramble again.
- Brainstorm what you would like for the future to look like.
- Develop a plan, with that grace period I was telling you about, so you have an idea of what you’ll need.
- If you’re given advanced notice, start practicing waking up early to accommodate for your commute that you used to have.
- Ask for, and utilize help from others
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Mental health is such an important topic that I feel isn’t talked about enough. So this is one small attempt to get the information out there to those who made need it. If you or anyone you know is in need of help, please do not hesitate to reach out to someone or a professional.