2020 has been hard on everybody: parents, children, employees, leaders. As we enter the holiday season of a very challenging year, maintaining good mental health should become top-of-mind for most of us.
In this episode of CFO Weekly, we spoke with David Butler, a Licensed Professional Counselor at Fundamental Foundations Counseling Center. David offers advice for individuals feeling isolated during this difficult season, as well as recommendations for breaking up work and home, how to connect with loved ones, and what to do if you or someone you know is struggling.
Increased Demand in Mental Health Treatment
Of course, many people have been struggling with their mental health this year, causing requests for treatment to increase dramatically. These requests are often due to fear of becoming sick, losing a loved one, being laid off, disruptions in routine, and the inability to visit friends and family.
Nonetheless, David points out that treatment requests were already experiencing an upward trend, even before the pandemic. This trajectory is in large part due to our disconnectedness from one another. In other words, social media feeds have taken the place of real human connection.
Having a window into other people’s lives 24/7 has brought on its own kind of isolation. This can easily pile onto the stress and aloneness 2020 has caused.
"This year we've seen increased request and demand for mental health services in all aspects of mental health." Butler said.
Helping Your Team Stay Mentally Healthy
David offers several ways to cope with the aloneness people can often feel, especially during the holiday season. Firstly, workplaces can offer ways for coworkers to stay connected and foster a sense of community. This can be achieved through work collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, an office newsletter, routine check-ins between managers and their employees, and virtual team meetings.
In regards to safely connecting with loved ones during this holiday season, David suggests sending letters or cards, scheduling Zoom calls with each other, or possibly meeting at an outdoor space while keeping a safe distance.
For those struggling with anxiety during this time, David advises talking about your feelings with a trusted friend or counselor, journaling, limiting your exposure to news and social media, meditating, exercising daily, and spending time with pets. All of these activities can help to reduce your stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic and its subsequent regulations.
Separating Work, School & Life - Maintaining Good Mental Health
It’s been especially difficult, David says, for people to disassociate work from home life. Without a daily commute, many people are unable to switch from a working to a relaxing mindset. In order to keep a healthy work-life balance when working from home, David encourages people to schedule a workout at the end of the workday. Taking a break to talk with friends and family can also section off work time from home time.
Those individuals with children in distance learning are urged to take regular breaks from work and schooling. Simply taking a few minutes a day to sit quietly can refresh a working parent’s mindset.
However, parents aren’t the only ones struggling during this season. Children are also experiencing stress from increased tension at home, intense media coverage, the inability to socialize with peers, and the disruption of routines. To help your child cope, be open to conversations about their fears and concerns, offer them an outlet, and keep them as connected to their peers as possible.
"Many children right now are faced with real-life fears that they may never have experienced before," Butler said.
When Someone is Struggling
It can be difficult to detect severe depression or anxiety in a loved one, particularly when we’re unable to gather in-person. David urges people to think about the ones in your life who are already susceptible to isolation. Reach out to those people who might be struggling right now. If someone has cut off communication with you or other loved ones, check in on them. Ask if they need anyone to talk to, because it’s unlikely they’ll initiate a conversation on their own.
David also recommends looking into modern mental health mobile apps for yourself or a friend. Apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp offer remote counseling and have proven to be very effective for many people dealing with mental health issues.
If you or a loved one is suicidal, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1. Another option is to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Otherwise, reaching out to a therapist or a local mental health nonprofit can help you or a loved one cope with the holiday season.