Recalibrating the Fight Against Isolation During COVID

Mike Moen | Public News Service
Mental-health experts say they're seeing growing evidence of the toll the pandemic is taking on people's mental health, and healthy coping mechanisms should be prioritized as the winter season sets in. Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakotans are on the front end of a long winter during a pandemic. But a mental health expert says it doesn’t have to mean months of unhealthy isolation. He says people can tap into some reminders, as well as new advice, on how to protect their mental well-being.

Kaiser Family Foundation poll says 53% of U.S. adults feel their mental health has suffered during the crisis. That’s up more than 20% from the beginning of the pandemic. Paul Nussbaum is a neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of medicine. He said it shows the effect the situation is having on much of the population.

“When we have a sense of loss of control and we’re not able to sort of express ourselves in ways and cope in ways that we need to cope, there’s almost a learned helplessness that begins to emerge,” Nussbaum said.

He said tips offered back in the spring, such as establishing a routine and staying active, are still helpful. But he also said expressing what you’re going through to a friend or loved one can be therapeutic.

Nussbaum said added financial stress for many residents is bringing even more anxiety. Be he said those who are struggling need to remind themselves that the crisis isn’t their fault, and that showing some vulnerability by talking it out can work wonders.

“It’s not rocket science, it’s not fancy. But it’s still foundational for how we can begin to heal,” he said.

He said sharing these feelings can help people recognize they’re not the only ones dealing with these problems. He added it might prompt others to suggest helpful solutions they have discovered during the crisis.

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