By Bella Butler EBS EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
BIG SKY—With the paramount danger of the contagious COVID-19 virus dictating the societal day-to-day, another threat lurks in the background. While physical health is a prominent concern, mental health may also be at risk in the midst of extreme uncertainty spurred by the global pandemic.
Ally Wold, a licensed marriage and family therapist, suspects that fear of the virus paired with economic strife and other tangential concerns may instigate a rise in mental health challenges, namely anxiety and depression.
“I think when we get out of our routines [and] we’re asked to do things differently, I think that can kind of get anybody on edge,” Wold said during a March 24 phone interview.
Wold also recognized that while these are challenging circumstances for many, some people may be more vulnerable to emotional struggles than others. Individuals who have a history with anxiety or depression, Wold said, are more likely to experience symptoms during this unusual period. “We can all have some sort of spectrum of anxiety or depression; we all have moods that we can feel … but some people are going to be more prone to the extremes of that.”
For many, though, dealing with a pandemic of this scale is likely unprecedented, and everyone will assume their own sets of challenges. Luckily, Wold believes there are varying degrees of efforts that can combat discomforts.
Wold sees the less populated Big Sky area as a treasured opportunity to get outside without the worry of being closely surrounded by others. “We do have a lot of options here which is really nice for people to still be able to do those things, feel a little bit more normal, get a little space from the people that you’re stuck with in your house and still have some sense of relief,” the therapist said.
For the time that must be spent working, in many current cases from home, Wold suggests that it’s best to try and maintain a normal routine and identify how best to transition to “work mode.” Wold said to attempt channeling an inner child and “find your homework spot,” a place where interruptions will be few and far between and frustrations can be best avoided.
An additional source of heightened stress for many is a constant influx of information from sources that don’t always agree and often exaggerate, according to Wold. It’s best to limit media time, she said, especially for those already feeling some level of anxiety. She suggests identifying a credible source that offers facts and recommendations, nothing more, and choosing a brief daily window to consume this information.
When do you know that your anxiety or depression is reaching a level of concern? Wold offers a simple tool to answer this question. Identify your own feelings of anxiousness or melancholy on a scale of one to five. If necessary, enlist someone close to you and ask them to gauge your behavior for you.
“If you’re running at a four or five all the time, something needs to be done, probably, to help you calm down,” Wold said. Solutions to de-stress could include talking to a friend, reading, journaling or spending time outside. But, she says, only the individual can truly discern when their feelings and behaviors warrant professional help.
For those less concerned about their own mental health and worried instead about someone else in close proximity, Wold advises that the cultural fear of discussing unpleasant topics be set aside in the interest of compassion.
“If you’re coming from a loving place, I think most people have a pretty good response to a caring suggestion or even just a caring question.”