As cases of COVID-19 decrease and communities are allowed to open back up, are you going to run straight out into the world, or might the transition back to normal be a little bit more complicated than that?
As the dust settles on this unprecedented time in history, the emotional and psychological impact that “staying at home” has had on many might be surprising to some and concerning to others.
I asked mental health expert Dr. Gregory Jantz for his advice in assuring a sure footing upon re-entry. He is the author of “Healing Depression for Life” and founder of The Center: A Place for Hope, a treatment facility for depression. Here’s what he said.
The Epoch Times: Most of us have been living with some degree of “lockdown” for many weeks. Based on what you’ve observed, how are we doing? How has this impacted people’s overall well-being?
Dr. Gregory Jantz: “Shelter at home” has turned quarantine into confinement, and confinement has escalated all symptoms of anxiety and depression. In a certain subgroup we are seeing significant despair, and it is predicted—and seemingly holding true at this point—that suicides in some states will be greater than death by coronavirus. Overall, we are not doing well. We are at a place of a mental health pandemic. And when you layer the financial stress on top of the present state of anxiety, we have a ticking time bomb.
The difficulty in transitioning back is that we don’t know what “normal” is, or how to behave now. The pandemic has disrupted societal norms, so one of the things we’re seeing, at times, are individuals making harsh judgments of others—for example, whether we should wear a mask or not.
The Epoch Times: How do you recommend individuals best prepare themselves for the transition back to normal?
Dr. Jantz: I recommend individuals prepare for a transition, but don’t see it as “normal”—see it as “I’m adapting over time.” We also need to allow for a great deal of social grace: we need to be slow to judge, and practice acceptance and kindness in a manner that we have not done before. Throttle back on judgment, not forward.
The Epoch Times: What advice do you have for parents aiming to ensure their children’s well-being as we move forward?
Dr. Jantz: We need to be careful that we are not continuing to impart our own fear about COVID-19 on to our children. Kids need to feel safe and secure—and they get that from those closest to them. What they also need now a sense of fun and enjoyment; they need to be allowed to go through normal developmental stages.
The Epoch Times: What are some practical things families can do to take care of themselves as they navigate this transition?
Dr. Jantz: We need to re-engage with physical activity outdoors: hiking, games, and things that we’ve avoided—like throwing a ball back-and-forth!
Have a “Digital Detox Day” one day a week—no devices.
Serve others. Consider volunteering in some capacity—for instance, soup kitchens still need help.
Take turns reading a chapter, each day, from a family-oriented book.
Pull out card games and other types of hands-on games. We set up a ping pong table, and do “brain breaks” because the kids are still studying online!
Quality sleep is important for all family members. There is a definite link between sleep patterns and depression, so if you improve sleep quality, depression levels will improve as well.
The Epoch Times: Overall, what do you believe are the keys to moving on with life in a healthy way?
Dr. Jantz: The key to moving forward is to allow for a period of change—we need time for this transition. This has been a significant trauma for us all, but we can move forward with a sense of strong community, and a reset in our relationships, if we allow time for this transition.