SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – May is Mental Health Awareness Month and counselors from across the state are gathering in Savannah this week for their annual convention.
WSAV NOW reporter Claire Going spoke with members of the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia about recent trends they’re seeing.
With almost half of U.S. citizens vaccinated against COVID-19, office buildings are beginning to reopen nationwide.
However, mental health professionals say they’re seeing an increase in post-lockdown anxiety, triggered in part by the thought of sharing indoor space, socializing with other people or commuting on crowded buses or trains.
Licensed Professional Counselor at Hillside Gaan Akers says setting boundaries before your return to the office can help.
“Think, ‘what feels comfortable for me?’ I think it’s really helpful to be able to express those boundaries to the people around you to be able to say, ‘I’m comfortable seeing people in person, but I might not want a hug just yet,’” Akers said.
She also advises employers to think about ways to help workers feel more comfortable by setting safety guidelines regarding mask-wearing and social distancing, as well as effective ways to communicate levels of comfort.
“Each of the nametags had little stickers on them. Green stickers are people saying, ‘I’m pretty comfortable. I’m vaccinated, feel free to come talk to me,” Akers said.
“We can shake hands and you can give me a hug.’ Yellow might mean please still stay six feet away from me and please keep your mask on. And red might ask that people not approach them.”
Akers recommends considering ways to cope ahead of time so one doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the change in routine—from finding childcare ahead of time to simple tasks like getting organized the night before.
“It sounds so simple but doing the little things that may help you get back into the normal routine and doing those things ahead of time will help lower the stress levels so you don’t have to do that at the moment,” she said.
Finally, Akers says it’s important to seek help when you need it.
“With mental health awareness month, take away the stigma of mental health and advocate for people to pay attention and to seek help if they’re not feeling at their best,” Akers said.