Coping with the Changes of Pandemic Life

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Life changed dramatically over the last year. Since March 2020 to now, Hoosiers have gone from hunkering down to getting their shots to reentering public spaces cautiously and optimistically. While many are excited for this summer, many may also feel conflicted. To address this drastic cultural shift, the Be Well Indiana Blog checked in with Rachel Halleck, MA, LMHC, LAC, deputy director and chief of staff for Indiana’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction. Rachel lends expertise to the greater discussion of navigating mental health challenges and changes Hoosiers have faced over the last year and a half.

It’s important to acknowledge and remember that as we transition out of a space of active, intentional isolation and seclusion, we need to understand that it is OK to reinvent what the idea of “normal” is. The everyday realities of life before the pandemic may no longer be possible or desired. What is comfortable for one person may be completely different for another. “In my clinical experience, anytime someone goes through a life-changing event, there is a sense of grief that the person they were before the event is not the same as the person they will be once they heal from the event. This is time to reinvent and redefine yourself in a healthy and functional way,” Rachel shared.

As we ease back into engaging in-person, it’s important to check in with yourself and your feelings. You may feel unmotivated by activities that once excited you. You may feel overwhelmed by social interactions. You may be wary of your stamina levels. This is all normal.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help manage your own expectations:

  • “What activities, events or relationships did I really miss in the past year?”
  • “Which activities, events or relationships was I OK letting go of?”
  • “Is this a healthy fit for me, my lifestyle or my family?”
  • “Do I actually have the desire or stamina to participate in this?”
  • “What kind of impact does this have on me, my lifestyle or my family?”

For many Hoosiers life throughout the height of the pandemic felt like survival mode. Rachel noted that while as a community we’ve all experienced a collective traumatic event, everyone has been affected differently. The impact is as unique as the individual. In this spirit she encouraged the value of self-reflection. “It’s not about IF the past year affected you, it’s about understanding and getting to know HOW. If you know HOW something affects you, you’re less likely to be blindsided by your own responses and pay closer attention to your own health.”Because mental health is so important and varied across people, it’s essential to remember there is a balance to everything. It’s OK to feel off or to feel hesitant, just like it’s OK to feel excited again! By paying attention to your mental well-being, and the mental well-being of your loved ones, you can take steps to live in a way that is beneficial to yourself and others.Coping with Change Check-In:

  • Feeling off? Use the mental health self-assessment tools on the Be Well Indiana website.
    • It’s a great jumping-off point for self-reflection.
    • Give yourself an opportunity to understand your feelings.
  • Make sure you spend time FOR and WITH yourself.
    • Do things that make you feel fulfilled.
    • Examples include meeting friends, reading, seeing a pastor or therapist, exercise.
  • Pay attention to your feelings and reach out early.
    • Ask for help when stress is at a 4/10 as opposed to a 9/10.
    • Download a mood-tracker app to help track your feelings.

If you start noticing a lot of sadness, loneliness, mood swings, changes in appetite or being withdrawn – pay attention and try to recognize if they’re better or worse over time. Get professional help when you can. If you need a place to start, call 211 to speak with a trained counselor.
Call 211
To be able to focus on mental health, your basic needs (shelter, food, clothing, health care, etc.) must be met first. Indiana 211 is a free, safe and confidential way to connect to resources from around the state and in your community.
If you need support, call 2-1-1. The resources on Indiana 211 are updated weekly to provide the most accurate services.

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