How to maintain mental wellness — for yourself and others — during social isolation

Dr. Elaine Schroeder, host of KTOO’s “Mind Over Matter.” (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

“We often say that Juneau is an amazing community. I think this is going to prove it.”
— Dr. Elaine Schroeder

On Tuesday, Juneau Afternoon host Scott Burton interviewed psychotherapist Dr. Elaine Schroeder. Schroeder explored ways to maintain mental wellness during the pandemic and social isolation.

She is also the host of KTOO’s Mind over Matter, a program focused on social justice and mental health, and has lived in Juneau for over 30 years.

Before delving into mental wellness, Schroeder emphasized the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and being patient with the feelings that it evokes: “Like everybody else, I’m scared. It’s human. This is a pandemic that has never occurred in the history of our lives,” said Schroeder.

Some of the strategies for mental wellness that Schroeder recommended include:

  • Grounding oneself in trusted, reputable sources rather than consuming information in passing. “WHO (World Health Organization), reputable scientists, and research intuitions we can trust,” said Schroeder.
  • Finding creative ways to stay connected with others, while upholding a responsibility to practice social distancing and isolation.
  • Building routine and structure, such as making sure to get outside everyday. “I try to get out, rain or shine!” said Schroeder.
  • Taking preventative measures to prepare for isolation — especially for those with depression or other pre-existing psychological conditions. These include setting up calls with a therapist, establishing routine, or unearthing old creative projects.
  • Figuring out ways to help and receive help from others, whether that’s through engaging with online mutual aid groups. The new Juneau Mutual Aid group on Facebook is one example.
(Creative Commons illustration by The People Speak!)

“Social isolation is going to be a challenge for all of us,” said Schroeder. “Offering to help others can really help create a sense of community. Loneliness is a very serious health risk for older people living alone, for anyone living alone. I’m sure that in Juneau, because of the strength of our community, that there will be remedies for things that individuals may be worried about: How am I going to get groceries? How am I doing to do this, how am I going to do that?” said Schroeder.

The measure of these next uncertain months will be about how individuals and communities respond to crisis, taking care of themselves and one another.

Schroeder ended her interview with an eye toward hope: “We often say that Juneau is an amazing community. I think this is going to prove it,” said Schroeder.

Listen to the full interview here:

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