MENTAL HEALTH

'It's OK to be sad about things' and reach out for help

The year 2020 has been tough. Take care of your mental health and know when to seek help. (The Gazette)
The year 2020 has been tough. Take care of your mental health and know when to seek help. (The Gazette)

For thoughts on how to better handle all of the stress this year, we talked to Tammy Jacobs, the hotline coordinator for Iowa Concern, an outreach program of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach that provides 24-hour counseling over the phone, by live chat or email.

Q. 2020 has brought one stressor after another: COVID-19, social unrest, financial strains for many and then the derecho that blew through on Aug. 10. What advice do you have for people who are struggling with the ongoing strain this year?

A. The best thing that you can do is to take care of yourself and your community — family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Make sure that you are getting plenty of sleep, eating right and getting exercise.

Many people have isolated themselves and forgotten to take care of these things, but we have to make certain to care for ourselves physically.

You need to also take care of yourself mentally.

This might mean reaching out to others when you have never had to do this before.

You and others in your life can reach out to COVID Recovery Iowa. It’s a virtual outreach program for anyone who has been impacted by COVID — which is everyone.

Q. After the derecho hit Cedar Rapids and other communities, people seemed to hesitate to talk about their loss, realizing their friend or neighbor may have lost so much more. How do you suggest people get the emotional support they need, while acknowledging that other people may be worse off?

A. While we have all been faced with a lot of adversity over the past year, the derecho added another dimension to the equation.

One of the things that I have noticed is that COVID-19 took everyone inside, away from others.

The derecho brought everyone outside. Communities connected again and stepped up to help each other out.

Some people lost everything, while other’s had little damage.

The extent of damage and loss that one experienced doesn’t control how one moves through the stages of grief and loss in a disaster — a lot might be based on other experiences a person might have had in the past.

It’s OK to be sad about things.

Learn to lean on others who have experienced the situation, too. This helps us to move through our grief stages.

Remember, it’s OK to be sad about things, that’s part of the process.

Q. So many of the stressors this year are almost universal; we’re all struggling with staying home more and seeing less of our family and friends. In the same way, the derecho hit all of Cedar Rapids, not just one part of town. What advice can you share when it feels like everyone is being pushed to their limits?

A. Take care of your mental health, it’s an important part of our overall health and well-being.

Know when to seek help. There are so many good resources out there that are available to help. Reach out to them, let them help you to grow stronger and get through this time.

Reach out to family, friends, community or professional help.

One thing that I like to stress is get outside when you can. Even during the pandemic, with appropriate means, get outside and enjoy nature. It can do amazing things for our mental health.

Go for a walk, take a hike, learn a new skill or just go for a ride in the country, through a state park or to a new area of town.

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Q. Any other advice on how we each can try to rise above and end 2020 on a better note?

A. Hang in there! Working together, we will get through this and push ahead!

NEED HELP?

Call Iowa Concern at 1-(800) 447-1985 to access confidential, free counseling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (For Spanish, call (531) 800-3687.) Or go online to covidrecoveryiowa.org or extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/disaster-recovery.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.