A Covid-19 Mental Health Tool Kit

December 28, 2021

We are in uncharted territory. 

For the first time, we’re living through a pandemic. 

For the first time, many of us are balancing child care with work from home. 

For the first time, our kids and teenagers are not allowed to hang out with their friends or go to school. 

And for the first time, the church’s doors are closed, as a way to better love the world. 

We are in uncharted territory, and with that chaos and uncertainty, can come stress on our mental health. As a result, the staff at PHPC has collaborated to offer a mental health toolkit- resources, tips, and tricks of the trade to care for every member of your family.  We hope you will find this tool kit to be of help, and we encourage you to comment and share your additions! We will get through this together. 

Mental Health for Kids

By Ann Nielsen 

All of our children will process these hard times in different ways. This is a time to be aware of your kids mental health and emotional well-being. They may experience emotions and feelings that are hard for them to even name, and  may change from each day or week to the next. 

One of the most important things your kids need to know is that it is normal to feel the way they are (fear, stressed, scared, sad). If you sense your child is struggling, the first step is to encourage them to talk. Model openness for them and create a safe space for them to share. Please know that the PHPC Children’s Ministry Department is here for you if you need to talk or get ideas about your child’s mental health. Please reach out to Ann Nielsen (anielsen@phpc.org). 

Here are some resources to help you as you navigate how to best be in tune with your child’s mental health. 

  • Mindfulness Activities have a positive effect on a child’s physical and mental health, boost self-control and can increase attention and focus. 
  • Kid’s Yoga
  • Blow bubbles ‘slo-mo’ style, emphasizing a big deep breath in through the nose to fill the bubble… and out through the mouth as slowly as possible. 
  • “Press the pause button” together during a tense moment (but not too tense) and check in with how each of you are feeling at the moment. 
  • Check out the “Stop, Breathe and Think” App - it is perfect for ages 5-10 years old. 
  • Use an Emotion Wheel to help your child communicate the way they are feeling. Whenever your child needs to express what they are feeling, they can point the arrow to the appropriate emotion. Here are two different examples that you can use. 
  • Wheel of Emotion - recommended for older children
  • Feelings Wheel - recommended for younger children 
  • When your kids are feeling upset, sad or unfocused use this Coping Skills Checklist to help them recenter themselves. 
  • You can use this list, or make your own for what works for you! It is great to have the list ready to go so that it is easy to put into action when needed. 
Mental Health for Teens

By Rev. Sarah Are

Being a teenager can be hard in the best of situations. However, when you throw a pandemic in the mix, it adds another level of need to mental health conversations. In an effort to walk with and alongside you all in these conversations, here are a few resources worth noting. 

1). Know that you are not alone. 

The youth team (Sarah, Maggie and Zach) are here to listen, have zoom “coffee dates'' and connect whenever possible. You can find us on email at sare@phpc.org, mjohnson@phpc.org, and zwells@php.org. We are here for you. 

2) Create a routine. 

We thrive when there is a routine to our lives that allows us to engage socially, physically, mentally and spiritually. Invite your teenager to create a schedule and try to stick with it. Block out an hour for a walk, an hour for game time, an hour for facetiming a friend, and some space to be creative! Mark what time the phone goes to bed, and when there is time for school. Write it down. The key to this routine is to do something hard (like work) and reward yourself with something relaxing after. 

One of the best things we can do when our anxiety is raging, is to stay distracted and actively engage that which we can control. A routine allows us to do just that. 

3) Seek Counseling 

Counseling is one of the best ways to invest in ourselves. The youth department has a list of counselors that families have used in years past. We would be happy to share that list if it could be of help. Another resource for finding a counselor is using psychologytoday.com. Click “find  therapist,” and then you will be able to filter counselors by certain zipcodes, genders, insurance, specialty areas, queer affirming, experience, etc. If you think counseling is the best next step for you or your student,  encourage them to hop online and look for a counselor that they want to reach out to! Having some voice in the decision may help them be more open to the idea. 

4) Ask the hard questions. 

One of the hardest things to do is to ask the hard questions. It is human nature to avoid hard questions around people showing signs of depression, because somewhere in our subconscious, we don’t want to be responsible for planting a self harm idea. However, research has shown that the best way to prevent self harm is not to avoid the hard questions, but to ask them directly. Therefore, if your child is showing symptoms of depression, ask- “Are you hurting yourself? Do you think about hurting yourself? Do you have a plan to kill yourself? Do you ever wish you were dead?” These are excruciating things to ask a loved one, but might be the very thing that saves their life. 

5) Text for Help. 

Sometimes, we just need someone to talk to. Fortunately for us, there are several mental health texting services that exist today, and can be a huge benefit to our youth! Here are a few worth checking out: 

  • Crisis Text Line: Text 741-741 for help and a conversation. This is a free resource, available 24/7 for conversations around eating disorders, assault, depression, anxiety, coping mechanisms, etc. 
  • Talk Space- Talk Space is text therapy with licensed professionals. If you are interested in a longer term conversation, this would be the way to go over the Crisis Text Line. It is free to download and then $49 a week, or $99 a month. 

6) Use your phone to your advantage! 

Consider downloading some apps that are designed to help you feel better. For example: 

  • Mind Shift: Mind Shift is one of the best mental health apps designed specifically for teens and young adults with anxiety. Rather than trying to avoid anxious feelings, Mind Shift stresses the importance of changing how you think about anxiety. Think of this app as the cheerleader in your pocket, encouraging you to take charge of your life, ride out intense emotions, and face challenging situations.
  • Calm: Named by Apple as the 2017 iPhone App of the Year, Calm is quickly becoming regarded as one of the best mental health apps available. Calm provides people experiencing stress and anxiety with guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, and relaxing music. This app is truly universal; whether you’ve never tried meditation before or regularly practice, you’ll find the perfect program for you.
  • SworkIt!: Swork It! Is a free at home exercise app. Get your blood pumping and your endorphins going! 
Mental Health for Adults

By Mahlon Hight 

These are challenging times for ALL ages and stages of life. The sentiments expressed by Ann Nielsen and Sarah Are are true for adults – we are in uncharted territory, we all process hard times in different ways and every age level has its challenges. As adults you may be faced with children, teens and/or college students along with significant others all at home, together… 24/7, which may not have happened in a very long time, if ever! At the same time you may be caring for a senior adult in another location, or perhaps just down the road in a senior living facility, but you are prohibited from visiting because of recent regulations. The stresses of this situation are felt by everyone, but adults often feel the added pressure of keeping the peace, making sure things are as “normal” as possible, and trying to help everyone do well, so it is an important time to take care of self.

One of the best things to keep in mind during this time are the instructions you receive about oxygen masks when you travel by plane. The flight attendant will always instruct adults to secure their own oxygen masks before helping children with their oxygen masks, this is so the adult has plenty of air and is “healthy” enough to be of assistance with helping others. This same logic applies to adults today. Whether you live alone or with other people, taking care of yourself is a primary concern. Here are some things that might help you navigate staying grounded and connected during the coming days:

  •  Periodically taking an inventory of how you are feeling, owning it and doing something to counter that feeling may be as simple as taking some deep breaths, saying a prayer of gratitude by naming all of the things you feel are blessings in your life, or playing a piece of music that makes you smile. Tools like YouTube can provide lots of smile opportunities, depending on your own preferences – from cat videos to comics there is something for you.
  •  Being careful to limit your intake of news, whether it is tv, news websites, FaceBook, etc… be aware of how much time you spend taking in the frightening things that may bring you down or make you worry. Balance that time with some “nature” time, taking a walk, even stepping outside on your balcony or front porch and noticing the sky and trees can create that balance.
  • Be honest with family and friends. Don’t try to put up a front that you have it all under control if you don’t. Knowing what you need and asking for help from your family with everything from daily chores to trying to schedule places and spaces for everyone is a great example for your children. If you live alone it is okay to ask family and friends to help you stay connected by calling more often.
  • Take some time for yourself – whether it is a walk alone, a bubble bath, or time with friends via  Zoom or FaceTime, or all of those. Time for yourself is just as important as scheduling time for your kids, your significant others or your parents. You might try the “Taking a Breath” podcast that is available here or join in the Thursday morning prayer time on Facebook Live at 9:00 every Thursday. Author Brené Brown has recently started a new podcast that you might find helpful, access to that as well as her articles can be found at www.brenebrown.com Adults can use their phones in creative ways too. Set your smartphone to have an “alarm” ring at different times throughout the day as reminders to breathe, smile & be grateful.

In the coming days we will have even more content available for spiritual growth and connection on our website so stay tuned! If you click here you will find a pdf that we modified from one of the resources we give participants of our Good Grief support group. If you are feeling the need to reach out for professional help these are good resources to explore. And remember, the Care Team is always available, just email Rev. Mark Brainerd mbrainerd@phpc.org or Mahlon Hight mhight@phpc.org for additional information.

We said it before, and we’ll say it again- we’re in uncharted territory. So during this time, don’t hesitate to reach out. Take care of yourself. Be gentle with your body and your mind. Remember that this won’t last forever, and remember that you are not alone. 

With great love and hope, 

The PHPC Staff 

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