Checking in on Your Mental Health During Stressful Times

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A new report from the University of Chicago says Americans are more unhappy today than they’ve been in the last 50 years in the midst of COVID-19 concerns, but the worries only seem to pile up with the recent racial tensions and the possibility of a storm striking during hurricane season.

NBC 6 spoke to Dr. Marisa Echenique-Lopez, UHealth assistant professor of clinical psychiatry.

“Mental health, unfortunately, is usually one of those factors that are less spoken about,” Echenique said. “Life, what it was three months ago, will be forever different and so we need to anticipate that we may feel different as well and that’s okay to a certain extent,” she said.

So much has changed in that time. People have lost their routines, jobs, income, and some have lost loved ones, but there is another threat that is lurking.

“It’s just something not seen. It’s not visible. It’s not tangible. So, for many reasons it’s one of those under looked aspects of any type of societal event we go through, particularly the pandemic we’re going through right now,” Echenique said.

Echenique says our mental health could be suffering too.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in caseload,” she said.

She said about one in four people suffer or experience a serious mental illness. The pandemic, however, is not the only thing we’re experiencing. Social unrest and a looming hurricane threat now in season.

“I think with everything going on, it may seem overwhelming whether it’s the social unrest, the pandemic, where do I turn to, what do I do? There’s so much change that needs to happen. Where do I focus on first, and I think for adequate change to happen, we have to make sure that we are okay,” Echenique said.

Here are some signs:

  • When things that usually make us feel good stop working
  • When symptoms are impacting our day-to-day
  • When it keeps you from your daily routine or doing activities you like to do

“Fortunately, I’ve seen an increase in people recognizing that they have a new set of symptoms that they’re feeling more stress naturally, sleeping worse, feeling more sad, they wanted to reach out to look for services before it became a mental illness," Echenique said.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Consistency: keep a schedule or routine to help gain control
  • Exercise
  • Accept that there are events we can’t control
  • Unplug
  • Prepare

Most importantly, understand you are not alone.

“Panic is the opposite of preparation. The more prepared we are, obviously this is a society, South Florida, knows or should know, what to expect, how to prepare, and to use the information to our advantage,” Echenique said.

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