OPINION

Eliminating the ‘virus blues’

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An Instagram friend sent a wonderful message this week.

He talked about how stress and worries affect our health, especially breathing — which becomes too short and shallow. Lack of exercise hinders sufficient oxygen intake.

If we learn to consciously control our breathing, it can heal the body and mind.

It’s great advice in today’s world.

COVID-19 has changed us mentally and physically.

I never knew how drastic the disease’s affects can be until I participated in a recent COVID-19 Town Hall meeting. The panelists discussed numerous topics and one really caught my attention — mental health.

Dr. Ian MacDonald, clinical director at Goldsboro Counseling Center, gave a snapshot of what he’s observed since the coronavirus disrupted our daily lives nearly a year ago.

MacDonald has seen increased rates of attendance problems, motivation with grades, social withdrawal (due to social distancing), depression, anxiety disorders among children and adults, self-medicating, emotional eating as well as increased nicotine, drug and alcohol use.

“What’s more relatable right now from everybody’s perspective is just the way we bury our heads in technology and use that to kind of cope with stress … how often we use devices like phones, tablets or computers to just manage boredom,” MacDonald said.

Kids and their parents need interaction.

My interaction is my job and I feel fortunate I’m able to get out in the community.

Admittedly, I have a tendency to stress eat and spend way too much time either texting, reading posts or playing games on my cellphone at home. Sometimes, I won’t even turn on the lights, but go straight to bed and live stream something on my iPad.

MacDonald encouraged people to find more healthy activities, be creative in how they take care of themselves and families.

I know of two families who have game nights, cook together with their children and take either day or weekend trips to avoid the “virus blues.”

There are silver linings.

“We don’t have to make it doom and gloom,” MacDonald said. “There’s a way to build hope into this crisis … things we can do — going outside and kicking a soccer ball, going for a walk, riding a bike.

“[Be] active as a family where we’re engaging each other, checking in and and see how everybody is doing without the distraction of electronics. There are positive opportunities.”

Indeed.

Rudy Coggins is assistant editor of the Mount Olive Tribune. He can be reached at rcoggins@mountolivetribune.com.

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