As Places Continue to Reopen in Hawai‘i and We Can Do More Things, Why Are We Feeling Even More Anxious?

Living during a pandemic can feel like getting stuck in a human-sized flow chart. Worried about the risk of getting COVID-19? Stop. Stressed about family finances? Take two steps back. Businesses, bars and bike paths open. Go out, but …


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In one week in early May, four men in their 20s and 30s committed suicide on Kaua‘i, a very visible reminder that mental well-being issues can be serious and hidden. And for people already dealing with depression, the pandemic and isolation can make matters worse. Even as we transition to fewer community restrictions, that uncertainty about risk associated with more activities can make us more anxious than ever. Mental health professionals across Hawai‘i have been increasingly busy, many using telehealth to help people, some of whom are seeking treatment for the first time. Many of us are trying to work things out on our own. We asked Mestisa Gass, program director for Mental Health America of Hawai‘i to share some strategies to help:


Mindfulness: During times of uncertainty, mindfulness can help us stay centered and grounded, keeping us focused on what’s happening right now and reminding us that the past has already happened and the future is unknown.


Take five minutes to breathe deep. Use your diaphragm more than your upper chest. With each new breath, pull it in deeper and let it out slower.


Practice self-care regularly. Deep breathing, meditation and stretching can all help us cope. Explore different kinds of meditation: lying down, sitting in a chair or walking outdoors. Connecting with nature offers us perspective, slows our life tempo and gives a sense of connection. You can find free guided meditation online. Headspace, a meditation app, offers free memberships for those who are currently not employed.


Radical Acceptance is learning to let go of what you cannot change and focusing on what you can. We can change our own behaviors but not always the world. Accepting that can relieve the struggle for control and motivate us to make a difference when we can.


Gass says taking care of ourselves allows us to create energy and time to help others. She finds comfort in this quote from spiritual teacher Ram Dass: “We’re all just walking each other home.”


SEE ALSO: Life Interrupted: A Free Virtual Series on Mental Wellness