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Taking care of your mental health during the fall, winter months

'This is a really stressful time, so we just want to remind Erie County residents not only to take care of your physical health, but also your mental health.'

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein told community members in a weekly COVID-19 update on Thursday, "This is a really stressful time, so we just want to remind Erie County residents to really take care of not only your physical health, but also your mental health." 

Margery Stanton has seen the pandemic's impact on mental health firsthand. 

"It's been absolutely heartbreaking," said Stanton, the Vice President of Intensive Mental Health Treatment & Rehabilitation Services at BestSelf Behavioral Health.

Seasonal depression is talked about every year, but this time around in some ways there are fewer outlets for people. For example, gyms and fitness centers are closed in some communities, events have been canceled, and more kids are learning remotely. 

The idea of spending holidays alone, for many, can cause stress too. 

Stanton told 2 On Your Side, "It's really shown the creativity people have had. I think we've all seen family get together in a remote fashion and be really creative around that. I think we're gonna have to tap into that resourceful and creative side that we all have."

"I'd also say, I know the temperature has been dropping, but bundle up and get outside. Get some fresh air. Move. Get out of your home so that you're not always in the same surrounding."

Another idea, Stanton said, is that people should also think about removing some notifications on their devices and avoid checking the same websites multiple times a day.

"The other piece I'll say is, if stuff begins to really escalate for someone personally and they feel stressed or they feel like they're really in a dark place, they should really exercise their ability to connect with resources." Stanton said. 

Stanton told 2 On Your Side it's also important know the warning signs if someone is struggling.

"Maybe there are discussions more about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live, feeling like they're a burden," she said. "Increased use in alcohol and drugs, maybe acting more anxious or agitated than they have in the past, sleeping too little or too much, or withdrawing even from people in their own home." 

Next week, Stanton said even if we can't be with family face-to-face, we should try to find ways to feel connected.

"Call those people. Tell them how you feel. Maybe take time to make cards and deliver them socially distanced or something of that nature so find a way to make it meaningful for you," Stanton said.