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Pandemic presents new mental health challenges

In the midst of this pandemic, we all have worries. Will we get sick? Can we continue work or school? How can we stay connected to friends and family when we are physically cut off? When can we start dating again? Given all these worries, it’s not surprising that anxiety, loneliness and depression are surging – particularly among young women.

A study released last summer by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), found young women are struggling – with the overall mental health of women ages 16 to 24 found to be 11% worse than it was prior to the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, young women were significantly more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression with about 25% reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression compared to less than 15% for young men.

Given those stats, it’s important to proactively support those who are struggling and to ask for help if you find yourself feeling down. For those experiencing suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

While there is no quick fix or one-size-fits-all for overcoming depression, the following tips can help you manage those feelings, so they don’t manage you.

  1. Start by addressing your physical health. Get sleep. Eat healthy foods and limit alcohol. Make exercise a priority – at least 3 times a week (a nice long walk with a friend counts!)
  2. Because depression can cloud your judgment, it can be tempting to focus on the negative, while discounting the positive, so focus on what you’re doing right. Write down at least one thing at the end of every day that you did well – even the smallest ‘wins’ count!
  3. Practice cultivating a state of mindfulness every day. When you learn to intentionally redirect your mind to what is happening in the here and now, you’ll also increase your mental energy reserves.
  4. Incorporate structure into every day. A lack of scheduled activities and inconsistent routines can increase feelings of helplessness and loss of control. A daily plan can help you regain that sense of control.
  5. Swap your social media screen time for more time with your social support network. Humans are wired to connect. So, reach out! Call a friend or family member and Facetime, go for a hike, or meet up at a park. Consider volunteering. Even small steps like smiling at strangers can make a difference.

In these hard times, never forget: you are not alone and there are many people and organizations like YWCA that are ready to lend a hand!

Question: What helps lift your spirits when you are struggling?