Here's how to help yourself and your children as pandemic-related mental health issues continue

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The pandemic is now entering a second year.

As 2022 begins, the mental health challenges for all ages, adults and children, continue.

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Alexa James, the CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, also known as NAMI Chicago, said adults need to focus on taking care of themselves.

"When people call our health line, we ask, 'who is around you that does make you feel reenergized? Who's a good listener in your space? What are small things you do throughout the day that make you feel more energized?' It can be doses of 5 minutes at a time, if we can build those into our days more regularly, that's helpful," James said.

James said a few common mental health symptoms are ongoing and disturbing thoughts, feeling suspicious, paranoid or jumpy, losing interest in ordinary activities and having feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness. Therapy is an option, but it may not be the solution for everyone, James added.

"Does talking feel good or does it feel too uncomfortable for us at this moment? So maybe it's getting outside and taking a walk for 15 minutes every day. Maybe it's finding a podcast that makes you feel inspired," James said.

When it comes to helping children, it's important to use age-appropriate language, set routines and structure and have conversations. Advocate Children's Hospital Pediatric Trauma Psychologist Dr. Trang Pham-Smith suggests always starting the conversation with an open-ended question.

"If your kiddo tends to speak less, tends to shut down or not share as much, I find it very helpful to giving them prompts when talking to them, asking, sometimes, 'I feel overwhelmed and this is how I react. How do you feel like you react in those situations?'"
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