COMMENTARY: Mental Health Tip — Nurture Key Relationships

As pandemic continues to exact a heavy toll, Wren Hudgins, Ph.D offers mental health tips to the community.

At this point in the pandemic, we’ve each learned a great deal that has helped us get by and even build new resilience.

We’ve learned how to stay flexible amid a changing landscape of rules and recommendations; how to decide which risks are worth taking to meet critical needs for ourselves and our families; and how to have difficult conversations about masking, testing, and vaccinations.

But the pandemic continues to exact a heavy toll on us. Here’s what people may be feeling at this moment in the pandemic:

1. Exhausted from over two years of pandemic uncertainty and anxiety.

2. Impulsive and emotional, from high levels of stress hormones for a long time.

3. Polarized — opinions are hardened, and people are finding it difficult to listen. I’m right and you’re wrong if you disagree with me.

4. Resentful about restrictions, mandates and rules.

5. Anxious about so many unknowns going forward. Omicron? No end in sight to the unknowns.

6. We are going back to more in-person contact.

Problematic interactions have dominated news media for months. We see it on TV nightly — airline passengers punching flight attendants – and it is clear that these feelings can have damaging repercussions.

So until now we have focused on taking care of ourselves, and that remains important, but looming large now are the relationships with the most important people in our lives. Some ideas to try:

1. Listen more than you talk; show you care by being present.

2. Edit your words before you speak, and check your impulses before you act.

3. Realize that most people are doing the best they can. Approach each interaction with compassion, and resist making snap judgments.

4. Anxiety may be expressed as impatience, anger, short tempers, or harsh judgments. Realize that what’s really going on here is that most of us are scared/worried.

5. Taking all this into consideration, give people grace. Be alert to internal judgments, which only inflame interactions, and accept what you can’t control.

6. Tell people who are important to you how you feel about them.

Find more resources to support mental health at

Wren Hudgins, Ph.D., is a member of the Community Care Team, a unit of Vashon Medical Reserve Corps and VashonBePrepared. He also works as a supervisor in disaster mental health for the American Red Cross and is a member of the Behavioral Health Strike Team for the Department of Health.