The Groundwork of Getting Better


Staying healthy and productive in hard times.

Struggling to stay positive after a summer of stress and worry? The mental effects of coronavirus have taken a toll on mindsets everywhere. Here, local mental health professionals give insight on stress management and how to get back in the groove.

Routine and Structure

“I think people had to adapt to a new lifestyle very quickly, and it has been hard for people not to have the daily routine and structure that they are used to,” says Joanna Chango-James, a licensed clinical psychologist at Mind Body Health in Arlington. Creating a routine can add structure in daily life and provides a sense of control in an uncontrollable time. Regardless of how you fill your day, establishing a routine that dictates when to wake up, eat, work, and relax can relieve some of the stress caused by the uncertainty of coronavirus. 

Exercise and Movement

Exercise has always been an effective way to improve or maintain one’s mental health. Physical activity produces endorphins that help calm stress and anxiety. Something as simple as going for a walk or a jog can clear the mind and lessen the effects of fatigue. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, working out also improves concentration, which can help relieve some of the stress associated with work. As a result, paying attention to one’s physical health coincides with the maintenance of mental health.

Unplug and Unwind

Technology and screens are more accessible than ever before—and a necessity for most. Overuse of technology can have stressful effects on both the mind and body, leading to more anxiety, decreased performance in the workplace, and physical exhaustion. “When you’re always staring at a screen, you’re focused. … If you’re doing that all the time, it’s kind of like doing what you would do if you were paying attention to a threat,” says Todd Vance, a licensed psychologist at Breakforth Counseling in Roanoke. To avoid looking at screens, Vance recommends spending time outside, picking up a new hobby, or spending time with family. Disconnecting from technology when possible can lead to lower stress levels both physically and mentally, and provide time to enjoy life regardless of the uncertainty.

This article originally appeared in our October 2020  issue.

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