Kathy Quance, M.S., C.C.L.S, senior counselor for community counseling at Empath Health

The last year and a half has been filled with challenges, including grief and anxiety for many of us. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to stretch on, people are becoming increasingly tired, overwhelmed and consumed with worry.

“I’m noticing a lot of people remarking on anxiety and it’s not necessarily related to the loss of a loved one,” says Kathy Quance, M.S., C.C.L.S, senior counselor for community counseling at Empath Health. “Support systems don’t feel available. There is a divisiveness that feels big and a level of trust that is missing.”

As a society, we largely depend on sharing thoughts, asking questions and talking through difficult times with other people. With tensions high as debates around vaccines, masks and other topics continue, it has become difficult for people to seek the support they need. Many people are also finding their ability to be supportive is depleted – they are burned out and no longer have it to give.

With the trust and energy needed to sustain a support system diminishing, many feelings that would otherwise be normal have been heightened to unhealthy levels. Combined with the disruptions to normal routines, finding ways to manage complicated emotions has been tough.

“A lot of coping has become more sedentary. We’re missing the healthy outlet people have usually had,” adds Quance.

Whether someone is grieving or simply working through day-to-day stress, it’s more important than ever to have healthy ways to relieve stress and anxiety. In addition to getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated and eating healthy, consider these ideas:

  • Join an in-person or virtual support group
  • Journal
  • Listen to music
  • Work on arts and crafts, draw or color an adult coloring books
  • Find ways to safely gather with friends
  • Cook meals with your family on a regular basis

Meditation and other relaxation techniques can also be good ways to relieve feelings of anxiety. These exercises can be a few minutes at the start or end of your day or anytime you’re feeling overwhelmed. There are many short, guided meditations that can be found online.

Physical activity is also helpful for managing anxiety. While routines like going to the gym have become complicated, keeping moving can be as simple as going for a walk around the neighborhood.

When it comes to helping kids manage these emotions, it’s important for parents and kids to regularly check in about their feelings. These don’t have to be forced conversations. The most important thing is to let your child know that you are available. Empower kids to take control of any anxiety they may be feeling by:

  • Helping to develop a positive mantra to start the day or for when things feel overwhelming.
  • Identifying trusted people to talk to. This could be a teacher, school guidance counselor, youth minister or coach. It can be reassuring to know that touchpoint is available, even if they never have to use it.
  • Encouraging outside social and physical activities, like youth sports, which can be a good outlet for anxiety. If your family isn’t comfortable with returning to in-person activities, look for virtual youth groups and gatherings to provide the structure and socialization kids need.

While we don’t know when things will get better, we can focus our energy on keeping ourselves and our families physically and emotionally well.

Visit us online or call us at (727) 523-3451 for more information or to request community counseling services.