How to maintain your mental health as Omicron brings on more COVID cases, uncertainty

SPOKANE, Wash.  – This surge fueled by the Omicron variant is bringing on another wave of stress and anxiety.

Uncertainty lingers as hospitals fill up and schools prepare to go to remote. Some districts closed or shifted operations, bringing on more stress for parents.

“I’m already trying to juggle my children. I’m already trying to juggle being a working mom. I’m already trying to juggle the responsibilities in my household and my business, and in the organizations I lead,” said Kayla Reid, mother of two Spokane Public Schools students.

Recently, the district changed its calendar so that students have more days off this month, giving staff some time to catch up on quarantine.

Families are at their wits’ end, trying to figure out what to do.

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Dads like Tim Mason are worried for their kids’ mental health as more things get canceled. Sports are important in their household, but the Mead School District recently had to put its programs on pause due to lack of COVID testing supplies.

If kids can’t get tested for COVID, they can’t play, per state guidelines.

“This is grinding on them. Then, you have this happen, and it scares me for them,” said Mason.

People are feeling fatigue, tired of the pandemic and all the changes it brought.

Joseph Judd, a licensed family and marriage therapist and owner of Advanced Behavioral Health, said he’s seen an uptick in people coming in for services over the course of the pandemic.

In the last three weeks, he says more people have reached out for help.

“Some of that may be holiday-related. Sometimes, we see at the end of the year, people struggle, but also just with the recent surge, all of a sudden a little spike in anxiety goes up,” he said.

He’s heard people become hopeless because of the pandemic, not knowing what to do next or when this will ever end.

As more studies and statistics come out, numbers show the pandemic’s effect on kids’ mental health is detrimental. The U.S. Surgeon General last month said emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts increased 51-percent in teen girls in early 2021 compared to 2019. It went up 4-percent in teen boys.

Judd says it’s a good idea to talk to kids about what they’re feeling and going through. Help them stay connected with others in a safe way. That same advice could be applied to parents as they work through this tough time.

Another way to help yourself or kids through a tough time is to be active and find things you like to do, Judd said.

Setting goals and finding something to motivate you will help, instead of isolating yourself.

“That’s kind of what’s been lost when we lose that motivation and sense of hope. Setting goals, having things to look forward to, being active, not isolating, but actually connecting with other people and reaching out. Those are all things that help, just taking that time to work on your own wellness and taking care of yourself,” he said.

Reaching out to a family member or friend can help, but if someone really needs it, call a professional.

  • The National Suicide Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • The 24/7 regional crisis line: 1-877-266-1818
  • The Washington Listens Line: 1-833-681-0211
  • You can also text ‘HEAL’ to 741741 for the crisis text line

READ: A local teen hopes sharing her mental health struggle can help others ask for help

READ: DOH: More children, teenagers in Washington struggling with mental health issues