By Derek Wilson
Despite the physical distance, there is no need to feel alone.
“When we started with the shelter-in-place and I first heard the term ‘social distancing,’ I cringed,” said Dr. Jei Africa, Director of Marin County’s Department of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. “It’s not about social distancing, it’s about physical distancing. You can still communicate with people without touching them.”
Dr. Africa was the guest speaker as Assemblyman Marc Levine (D – Marin County) last week launched a series of teleconference town halls, offering tips and resources for mental health.
“These are unprecedented times and we have never seen anything like this,” Dr. Africa said. “Paying attention to the signs and symptoms of stress is really important. So, for example, having trouble sleeping, worrying excessively, not being able to eat or overeating, shortness of breath, heart racing, sweaty hands … for some people it shows up in irritability or impatience. So I think it’s important to pay attention to changes in the way people respond to certain things… Especially when there’s so much anxiety and uncertainty.”
Asked about the added stress to relationships between family members or roommates, Dr. Africa said: “More than ever having open communication with your roommate or with your family member about what your needs are really helps in relieving the possible conflict. If you’re going to be talking about that, you might say ‘It’s important for me to have 10 minutes at the end of the day to have time where I can
destress. I don’t want someone to talk to me. I want to eat in peace.’ Those are things that are really important to talk about.”
He continued, “In any conflict, communication is really No. 1. Figuring out ways to engage people and your loved ones in a conversation and say for example, ‘I’m really feeling I need a break right now or I need a breath of fresh air.’ For some of us that kind of communication is really important. When I talk about conflict, I feel that being able to express what you’re worried about or what your concern is in a way that’s not judgmental, and for the person receiving it for the first time to listen more instead of trying to respond and try to fix whatever is happening. So open communication and having strong boundaries, being clear about what you’re asking are important to relieving conflict. We are living in stressful times. People are stressed out. There’s so much anxiety out there. So being forgiving, being compassionate, saying ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you,’ those can help reduce conflict in a much better way.”
Levine advised your mental health is important to your overall health. Remember to:
• Take care of yourself.
• Maintain a daily schedule and routine.
• Try your best to eat healthy.
• Limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine.