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Mental health matters: Tips and techniques for balance


Access to mental health services is essential at any time, and more so now in light of current events.  It’s okay to talk about mental health, which is why therapists on the care team at Citizen Advocates are taking turns offering tips and techniques for coping.

Shanzy Carter-Martinez is a Licensed Mental Health Counsel. She’s the senior clinician and interim clinic manager at our Clinic in Saranac Lake.  Her areas of specialty include mental health, addiction and trauma.

Shanzy Carter-Martinez, LMHC

Are you seeing a rise in a particular issue such as anxiety or substance abuse?

There has been an observable spike in reports of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Additionally, one of the most prominent struggles I have seen is a reactivation of past traumas as well as health related phobias/anxieties.

Are there other clinical concerns coming your way?

Other clinical concerns that I have seen most frequently are struggles with domestic violence and reactivation of traumas. These have also caused exacerbated symptoms of PTSD, panic disorder, and eating disorders.

Is the constant news about COVID-19 overwhelming people?

The constant exposure to COVID-19 news has certainly been eliciting negative emotions for people and creating a high level of people expressing that they have been feeling overwhelmed.

What are some actions or activities people can engage in to help cope with stress?

One of the simplest, yet most difficult, activities people can do is to limit exposure to the news/social media. Additional activities can be to engage in physical activities, being outside, gardening, art, music, and connecting with others through phone calls or video calls.

What are some tips for dealing with isolation?

Spend time focusing activities that you enjoy. Hold boundaries with others if demands are being asked of you that cause anxiety (attending gatherings when you are uncomfortable). Engage in socialization through phone calls or video calls. Be kind to yourself and remember that it is okay to not ‘get things accomplished’ and instead take time to rest or engage in enjoyable activities.

What if I normally have one drink to unwind, but now find myself having 3 or more?

If you’ve found this type of increase, you should reach out to supports, including professional supports to find additional coping skills.

What about tobacco use or vaping? What recommendations do you have there?

If you find that yourself increasing your frequency of smoking/vaping, I would recommend reaching out to personal and professional supports. This increase lets you know that you are struggling more.

Other tips, suggestions or warning signs people should heed?

Sometimes making a loose schedule for yourself can help with the limits of isolation, simply to help with consistency and routine that you were once used to. For example, getting up around the same time, meal times, or even just identifying activities you’ll engage in each day.