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Family time is important, so don't dwell on minor annoyances, therapist Adam Avila advises.
While the physical health effects of COVID-19 are increasingly well documented, many of us may not be considering the toll that staying home for extended lengths can have on our mental health.
One San Antonio therapist says our ability to deal with this new reality may be improved by creating structures for ourselves and striking a balance between work, family and pleasure time.
“I would recommend that you create some kind of structure in your schedule to get things done or have a plan for your day,” said Adam Avila, a licensed professional counselor and owner of Radius Psychotherapy
. “You have to create your own things to look forward to.”
Many people new to working from home may face challenges and could benefit from planning their day, Avila added.
“This is my work schedule, this is my home schedule,” he said of creating boundaries — even though both activities now occur in the same place. “If you start to feel something like depression, this gives you a sense of control over your day.”
Avila also suggested that not every activity or task has to be work-related or productive in a traditional sense. By giving yourself active choices, you can gain a feeling of achievement.
“There’s a difference between waking up and not having anything to do and not feeling like doing anything,” he said. “Give yourself something to do that you enjoy and that you don’t have to do. ... Keep it personal and positive.”
Avila also suggested that people not dwell on minor annoyances that will likely occur, particularly between family members quarantined together. He added: “Let’s bring it down a notch and not worry about the relationship stuff and instead worry about getting through this. Don’t push yourself too far or too fast.”
Some people may want to seek professional support to deal with the situation, Avila points out. If that's the case, they shouldn't feel embarrassed or take it as a sign of weakness.
“If there’s any behavior that you’re not comfortable with or that you’re concerned about, it can’t hurt to have a conversation about it,” he said. “What we’re hoping for is that we look at COVID and think we overreacted. That’s the same approach we should have for mental health.”
While schedule and structure will help in the short-term, Avila worries about what the pandemic will mean for mental health in the long-term.
“My number one concern is trauma from long-term effects,” he said. “People may lose everything. We need to let people know that trauma is real and nothing to be ashamed about.”
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