Expert shares tips for managing holiday stress during pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If survival mode was getting us through the first few months of the pandemic, mental health experts agree that we will need to dig deeper to survive the rest of the year.

"People have been saying this is a marathon, not a sprint, it's a marathon that you didn't sign up to run, it's a marathon you got stuck in, said Dr. Carl Fleisher, head of clinical at online therapy Reflect. "Human beings are built to deal with crisis that are short term, there's a hurricane, we deal with it but then the hurricane is gone."

Two women reached out to ABC7 News to share their story of struggle. The hope -- in sharing their vulnerability, others will find the strength to do the same.

"Sleeplessness is definitely a symptom for me, my hair starts to fall out, I get breakouts, so if you can see all these breakouts on my face," said Rashim Mogha, "Part of me reaching out was in an effort to let people know that it was ok not to be ok."

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"Lost almost 20lbs just trying to figure out how to keep my business alive during the pandemic," said Shannon Bynum Adams, owner of Urban Body San Jose.

The latest report from the American Psychological Association sounded this alarm -- we are facing a national mental health crisis. 8 in 10 surveyed say the pandemic is a significant source of stress in their life.

We asked Dr. Fleisher for an easy to remember checklist to care for yours and your loved ones' mental health.

"Crisis that are drawn out just keep going and going, they drain us because instead of being able to draw on adrenaline which is our short term ability to cope, we have to draw on, our whole array of resources, whatever we can get our hands on," he said. "The number one thing I would focus on is connection and making connection a priority."

Check in with yourself.

"Am I okay from the outside? Am I going to work, am I going to school? Am I present and engaged in my relationships? How am I feeling, how bad am I feeling, how worried am I, how angry am I and to just stop and take a measure of that and see what you come up with," Dr. Fleisher said.

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Next, check in on others.

"The warning signs that I always tell people to look out for is folks you haven't heard from in a while and longer, when people aren't doing well, they isolate unfortunately and so for us to reach out to them can make a big difference."

Don't forget to do small things, everyday

"The little stuff does add up, I'm going to take a 15 minute nap today, I'm going to just stretch for a minute or you know what I'm going to take an hour and play guitar do something fun," said Dr. Fleisher.

Also, simple but powerful... sleep.

"There again, just a little bit extra makes a difference," he added.

WATCH: 'Your Mental Health: A Bay Area Conversation,' virtual town hall addressing COVID-19 impact on mental health
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Watch ABC7's one-hour virtual town hall, "Your Mental Health: A Bay Area Conversation," with mental health experts, providing real solutions to help you make each day better.



For Adams, her best advice, is the one she practices with her clients daily.

"Move everyday, get outside if you can, even if 30 seconds a day, do it and make sure you're breathing," she said.

And for Mogha, if 2020 started out feeling like a four letter word, she's found a much better one, just as long -- hope.

"Now I see it as a year of opportunity, time to reflect, how we want to shape up our lives and shape up our businesses," she said.

Get help with mental health issues here.

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