Hawai‘i Experts Share Strategies for Getting Through Pandemic Exhaustion
Our Life Interrupted webinar panel provides tips for getting out of a rut, finding professional help if you’re on a waiting list and coping with the unexpected challenges of a community reopening.
Talk with family and friends about their feelings and how they’re coping daily—with food, sleep, exercise or activity—in the ever-changing world of the pandemic. That’s one of the main messages that came through in the launch of HONOLULU Magazine’s free virtual mental health webinar: “Life Interrupted: Navigating What’s Next.”
The first of four sessions, which was live on Zoom on May 6, focused on all the changes we’re facing at home, work and in the community. Mental health experts emphasize that we’ve all been profoundly changed by 15 months of disruption, losses, isolation.
People may feel surprised that they’re languishing, feeling stuck or stagnant. “I think that’s surprising for people,” says Mestisa Gass, program director for Mental Health America of Hawai‘i. “So it’s really important to know that you have to try different things, new things that maybe you weren’t going to do before.”
Our panel did have tips for those seeking professional help. Most local therapists have long waiting lists of potential new patients right now. Mental health advocate Kathleen Rhoads Merriam suggests signing up for support groups or classes as well as seeking out telehealth visits with experts. She also urges folks to watch out for exhaustion and to ask people around you how they’re doing. “Just checking in with yourself, checking in with others. It’s kind of a theme of slowing down and trying to be more intentional.”
Dr. Josephine Horita, psychiatrist at the Kāhala Clinic for Children & Family, reminds her patients that we’ve learned a lot about living through upheaval and most of us now have a tool kit for surviving what’s ahead. “To help reduce anxiety is to reflect as a family, as a community to say what works, and let’s have that as a manual.”
First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu Pastor Dan Chun says he’s seeing a wide range of reactions from introverts who coped well in the beginning to folks losing hope. His message: “Never give up. And I would just put a footnote to that, reach out to at least one person to communicate how you’re doing.”
Therapist Allana Coffee notes that most won’t be able to immediately return to pre-pandemic times. She encourages people to manage expectations: “Go slow, take your time, be deliberate” while realizing that it will take time to find the right pace for easing back into more active lives. Coffee also reminds everyone to avoid blaming others, minimizing or denying others their own thoughts or descriptions of their experiences.
“My takeaway is that you’re not alone and you don’t have to do this alone,” Horita adds. She urges people to “find your tribe again,” those you can count on to talk through things.
Gass also reminds us all to get outside in our beautiful environment. Even when we’re struggling and feeling stuck. “Find some new joys, lean into them and then share them, share that joy that you’re experiencing because we can all really use it right now.”
Mahalo to Dr. Jason Keifer, Brain Health Hawai‘i and the Kāhala Clinic for joining u as presenting sponsor for this year’s webinars. Our series starts in May, which is Mental Health Month to help draw attention to the issues, nudge us toward solutions and illuminate resources available to all of us. And thank you to our silver sponsor: Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools; and our community partners Mental Health America Hawai‘i and NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness)–Hawai‘i.
Watch or listen to the entire session here.
And please join us next May 20 for “Life Interrupted: Navigating What’s Next—Helping Students Recover and Thrive.” From preschool through high school, schools had to transform to find ways to reach students even as the pandemic put traditional learning methods in a timeout. Distance learning helped but some students thrived while others disappeared. Worries about students falling behind mixed with caution needed to keep the community healthy. How do we help make these next steps work for us all? Representatives from public and private schools, families and mental health experts weigh in.