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Experts say burn out, depression, anxiety on the rise due to pandemic

Posted at 5:14 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 19:14:56-05

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been almost exactly two years since the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, and with new variants cropping up still, many are feeling burned out and even seeking help to cope for the first time.

Experts say it’s important to address these needs now.

“Acknowledging your feelings, accepting them, not feeling embarrassed or ashamed, if you are feeling frustrated and irritable, we understand that,” said Dr. Kristin Francis, MD at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute.

Many of us are not only burned out by the pandemic, but may be experiencing anxiety or depression for the first time.

Dr. Kristin Francis with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute says she’s seeing higher rates of PTSD, substance user disorders, and increased major depressive and anxiety disorders.

“People are like, how do I know when it’s time, you know it’s time when it’s really impacting your life. When your life is starting to be really hard in ways that are ongoing, we want you to seek help,” said Dr. Francis.

Dr. Francis says she hears a lot of shame from patients around negative feelings.

“People think you can avoid them and just push them away, and you can’t,” said Dr. Francis.

Those feelings shouldn’t be avoided according to Teague Cowley, a psychology resident at the Huntsman Institute. He says resiliency in this pandemic shouldn’t be about minimizing your feelings. Instead, it's about learning how to move through them.

“Difficult experiences are a part of the human condition, and it’s about how do we manage those experiences and improve and move forward,” said Cowley.

There are many ways you can take action to help yourself today. Dr. Cowley says one of the best ways he’s found to practice mindfulness is to journal, but it doesn’t have to be about your day.

“Mindful journaling can also consist of reflection like recalling a positive experience, you had in the past, what happened, why was it positive, who was there, what was significant, it’s about recalling and reveling in the past of those experiences,” he said.

This self-reflection can in turn can be beneficial to recall in times that are not as positive. Aside from looking inside yourself and checking in with your feelings, experts recommend getting outside and moving your body.

“Movement is helpful in that it releases natural endorphins, helps improve your focus, your overall mood as well as your sleep,” said Dr. Francis.

Dr. Francis also says dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT can be helpful to some people.

“Changing your temperature quickly, immersing your face in cold water, intense exercise, so when people say stop and give me 20, paced breathing is another relaxation technique, and then muscle relaxation, so some people really tense up their muscles and then progressively relax them throughout their body,” said Dr. Francis.

It’s important to address these problems now, to help yourself in the long term.

“If you don’t get help early on, then you are more likely to have experiences of mental health and depression in general over the long term,” said Dr. Francis.

“A lot of the time it’s about what works best for you. This is a trial-and-error process,” said Dr. Cowley.

Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness. Talking to a mental health professional or doctor can help you to start feeling better. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.