RICHMOND, Va. -- As communities across the world are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say that it's crucial to pay attention to one's mental health.
The toll of the ongoing pandemic is especially evident online, as people take to social media to vent, sometimes in comical ways.
But outside of the comedic relief, experts say that mental health challenges are real for many people, and need to be addressed.
Scroll through social media and you’re sure to spot them; funny memes and posts from parents, students and workers who are now climbing the walls, stuck inside.
Many people feel boxed in, as social distancing ramps up and families are forced to reshuffle their lives. Countless families are missing graduations while others are postponing weddings and long awaited travel plans.
Some social media users may have noticed posts encouraging Facebook friends to do a mental health check in, using emojis to express their mood at the time.
It's a practice that licensed professional counselor Nicole Williams says is truly needed.
“When you see someone who is anxious, it’s because they don’t know the outcome. Most anxiety comes from lack of preparation. We can decrease anxiety if we stay prepared," Williams said. "If you need to financially plan, put money aside and determine how much we should spend for the week or for the month. That way, you don’t have anxiety."
The Chesterfield clinician agrees with Virginia’s governor and other mental health advocates who say it’s likely the state will see an increase in depression, substance abuse, and domestic abuse as the COVID-19 crisis persists.
“So for those family and friends, I say check on them. I’ve been encouraging my colleagues to call their clients and be intentional about checking on them,” Williams said.
Williams suggests limiting social media and watching extended news coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every hour, get up and move around. Do something. Exercise— do 10 jumping jacks, take a walk outside to the front porch, get some fresh air. Try making a list of things you want to get done. Write them down as they come to your mind. Then one a a time, day by day try to actually get them done and you will feel accomplished. When you feel accomplished, you will feel better about your day” Williams offered as tips to ward off stress and anxiety.
Williams said that the stress people are under isn’t something that will go away overnight. Her advice to all who have mental health concerns is to find a reputable licensed professional with whom to speak.
Her counseling business "In the Nick of Time" Services has seen an uptick in people reaching out for counseling services in the past week and Williams has answered the call.
To accommodate as many people as she can, Williams has also reduced prices for people in need, offers some free sessions, and is guiding other clinicians in setting up operations to virtually assist clients..
She hopes the conversations will continue about the importance of addressing mental health needs—because lives could depend on it. For those who need counseling, Williams says her agency can be reached at nickoftimeservices.com or 804-955-9259.
There is also a national suicide prevention hotline that’s always available at 1-800-273-TALK. You can also text the word TALK to a crisis text line number: 741741.