Living With Mental Health Challenges During the Pandemic

don't give up. You are not alone, you matter signage on metal fence

Photo by Dan Meyers Unsplash

Article by Cassandra Vieten Ph.D.  and Psychology Today

Part 1: The basics.

We are all working to maintain our peace of mind during this tricky time. Stay-at-home orders and a continuous stream of news and social media focused on the coronavirus pandemic is a form of stress most of us have never encountered. But for people who were already struggling with a serious mental health issue, being cooped up represents not only a loss of livelihood and connection. With diagnoses such as depression or bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic or PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorders, substance dependence, schizophrenia or psychosis, coping with the pandemic also carries a high risk for symptoms getting worse, deterioration of mental or emotional state, or full-blown relapse.

Gazing into the vast expanses of unstructured time and isolation leaves people to free-range ruminate, at the mercy of their own rattling train of thought. Without those external checks and balances, or just plain distractions, an increasingly narrowed perspective can develop. The world feels further away, while fears both new and old can become louder. As recovery-oriented author Anne Lamott says, “My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone.”

At the same time, being in constant proximity to family members or roommates can be even more difficult than being alone. People performing the juggling act of mental health maintenance have learned to carefully manage the frequency and duration of interactions with others. Losing the option to take personal space can disrupt what is sometimes a delicate balance.

Access to uninterrupted screen time increases the pressure even more. News updates and social media feeds serve up frequent “threat cues”—that is, pictures, words, facial expressions and vocal tones that convey to your conscious and unconscious mind that you are in danger. Exposing ourselves to a steady stream of these cues keeps us all in fight/flight/freeze mode, but they are even more likely to capture the attention of people who are anxious or depressed (1,2). Adding these triggers to the mental whirlwind can result in sharp increases in negative thought patterns, emotions, and behaviors towards self and others.

People who are in recovery or remission from mental health disorders are also at risk, since they may have carefully constructed an ecosystem in their lives to keep them balanced. They may lose visits with friends, 12-step meetings or support groups, seeing a therapist, time with their spiritual community, going to the gym, being in nature, and even the security and structure of their jobs. For those in recovery, staying “sane” is often less a matter of comfort and more a matter of survival.

So what can people facing mental health issues do, and how can friends and loved ones help?

1. If you or someone else is a danger to themselves or others, call 911 or go to the emergency room. If you are not sure, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is confidential and available to anyone, 24/7. Under normal circumstances, suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10-34. This is far and away higher than the risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from coronavirus. Do not hesitate to get help for a mental health crisis due to coronavirus risk.

2. If you are taking medication, be sure that you have enough and that you take it as prescribed. Request a refill well before you run out – many insurance companies have been instructed to waive requirements and limits on ordering prescriptions. Find out where you will go to pick up refills, as your usual pharmacy or clinic may be temporarily closed. If you have trouble with cost or access, talk to your prescriber or pharmacist about options available to you.

3. If you have a therapist, try to continue your treatment by phone or online. If you need treatment, visit SAMHSA’s National Helpline, or call  1-800-662-HELP (4357) for a local referral to low or no cost services, or text the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) crisis line 24/7 by texting NAMI to 741741. There are several online psychotherapy providers such as BetterHelp or TalkSpace, or you might try 7 Cups: a free online volunteer “listening” service that says it is the “world’s largest emotional support system.” A virtual “visit” to a therapist can feel awkward at first, but that professional perspective is often vital in spotting increased symptoms and getting new ideas that don’t come from more casual sources.

4. Join a free support group online. A multitude of 12-step and other free community-based programs meet online—and not only for people recovering from alcohol or substance dependence, but also for people who overspend using credit, gamble too much, are quitting smoking, have a loved one who is an alcoholic or addict, grew up in alcoholic or dysfunctional families, and many more. These groups offer not only support for quitting unhealthy behaviors, but also for coping with daily life. You don’t have to be currently in crises to benefit from them. At a time when a lot of people are at a loss for how to help others, support groups are also an unconventional way to contribute to your community. Your experience may be exactly what someone else needs to hear.

5. Move your body. Even a little is great. You can take a walk to the mailbox, around the block, do a few sit-ups or pushups, dance to your favorite song or playlist, move while washing dishes or folding laundry, or do a quick online gentle stretching or brief exercise routine. Even a tiny amount of movement can make a huge difference to your mental state, and when you can do more—even better. Regular exercise has been shown to be equivalent to antidepressants in treating depression, and appears to change the body’s chemistry in some of the same ways. The tricky part is doing it when you feel down. Start small, and give yourself a huge pat on the back when you do even a little.

6. Take about an hour each day to read things that are helpful to your mental state, to talk to a therapist, sponsor, or good listener, to journal, or to use a free online guided meditation app that has specific recordings for mental health issues. Much like with exercise, if these are not part of your regular routine, you can start small with just a few minutes or a single chapter.

7. Bring things into your life that give you happiness, meaning, gratitude and joy. These may seem superficial, but in fact they are antidotes to stress. Whether spiritual practices, inspirational movies, awe-inspiring photography, crafts, hot baths, or something as simple as getting flowers or lighting a candle – these things can help maintain your emotional balance, and prevent resorting to less healthy coping behaviors. If you feel too depressed or anxious to do any of these things, start by making a list of 20 things that might bring you moments of clarity, peace or joy, and then committing to doing just one of them.

I recommend doing these things even if you are not currently symptomatic. Don’t wait until you feel off-balance, or in crisis. It’s like adding to your mental health bank—and just as important as stocking up on other basics in your life. Maybe more, especially now.


24 Stunning Container Garden Planting Ideas

Article by Ananda of A piece of

Get ready to be blown away by this most colorful array of container plantings that will look outstanding on your patio.

24 designer plant lists for beautiful container gardens & colorful mixed flower pots combinations: great patio planting ideas & backyard landscape designs!

24 designer plant lists for beautiful container garden plantings & colorful mixed flower pots combinations. You will love these great patio design & backyard landscape ideas!

One of the most universally loved garden features is the container garden. Who does not love a planter overflowing with colorful flowers, happiness and exuberance?

I was gathering some beautiful container flower pot ideas, and just could not stop! I am going to share with you a plant list for each one of these gorgeous container plantings!

The best part is: we can recreate each of these stunning mixed flower pot designs. Get ready for some botanical Latin and let’s decode these magical container garden recipes!

See all 24 mixed flower container plantings at:

Forms of the Verb to be


Grammar in Levels is a program for students of English. Students can learn grammar for their level.

These are forms of the verb to be in the present.

We use the verb to be in the present in about 25% of sentences in spoken English.


My name is Robinson. I am from England. I am eighteen years old. My father is German. My mother is English. We are a good family.

To be

Lesson 1

I am
We are
You are
You are
He/she/it is
They are


I am not
We are not
You are not
You are not
He is not
They are not


Am I?
Are we?
Are you?
Are you?
Is he?
Are they?
This lesson appears in:

Interior designers reveal the 10 things in your bedroom you should get rid of

By Cheyenne Lentz of Insider

Slide 1 of 11:    Insider asked two interior designers to share what sort  of things they hate seeing in people's bedrooms.   One designer said that you should get rid of or move the extra pillows on your bed and the plants on your windowsills because they can add clutter to a space.     The experts also said that nightstands should be free  of clutter and your walls shouldn't have too many decorations.        Visit Insider's homepage for more  stories.     Everyone has their own idea of  how their bedroom should look and what should go in it, but certain items and trends could be making your space seem smaller and more cluttered.  Here are some things you should avoid having in your bedroom, according to interior designers.

Photo by Shutterstock
  • Insider asked two interior designers to share what sort of things they hate seeing in people’s bedrooms.
  • One designer said that you should get rid of or move the extra pillows on your bed and the plants on your windowsills because they can add clutter to a space.
  • The experts also said that nightstands should be free of clutter and your walls shouldn’t have too many decorations.


There are more designer tips for you at the link below:

Why I Drink Hot Lemon Water Daily | Hello Nutritarian

Why I Drink Hot Lemon Water Daily Medical Medium Health Benefits How Not to Die Dr Greger Chef AJ Ultimate Weight Loss Challenge SOS Free Vegan What the Health


In Anthony William’s book Medical Medium Life Changing Foods, we get further confirmation that lemons (and limes) are the real-deal when it comes to superior nutrition, mineral bio-availability, and organ detoxification.

Here’s what lemons (and limes) can do according to William’s work:

  • ultra-hydrating and electrolyte-producing because they’re a top source of mineral salts and trace mineral salts, containing bioavailable sodium
  • most highly absorbable vitamin C
  • they contain specialized phytochemicals called limenoids that bond together vitamin C and calcium creating alkalinity in the body that helps prevent the growth of almost every type of cancer
  • cleanse the liver, kidneys, spleen, thyroid and gallbladder
  • they purge the many toxins we accumulate from exposure to plastics, synthetic chemicals, radiation, and poor food choices

So, what’s happened to me over the past year that I’ve been sipping on hot lemon water?

I feel pretty darn magnificent.

Now there’s a lot of things at work making me feel that way, most important of which is nutritional excellence following a nutritarian lifestyle.  But I absolutely know that the increased circulation I’m getting from my morning hot lemon water has helped me release even more fat this year.

I’ve never been a coffee drinker but I can attest to the fact that hot lemon water wakes me up in the morning with a tart pucker and is infinitely more enjoyable than hot water alone.

But probably the most interesting bit of information I discovered in researching my daily hot lemon water practice is this:

“Once detoxification has drawn the gunk out of your cells and tissues (your liver does much of its work overnight), it needs to be flushed out when you wake up–otherwise, those toxins settle back in.  Lemon or lime water is more beneficial for this process than plain water, because filtration has often taken the life out of drinking water, and these citrus stars reawaken its healing abilities.”

– Anthony Williams, Medical Medium Life Changing Foods

How to Make Hot Lemon Water Health Benefits Easy Recipe Medical Medium
4.34 from 6 votes


Simple Hot Lemon Water

Cultivate this simple, cheap and effective habit to increase your circulation and over-all health.  Here’s an easy recipe to get you started!


  • 1/2 to 1 lemon
  • 8 to 10 ounces water


  1. Heat water over stove top or in a microwave-safe mug until just before a rolling boil.  For microwave, about 120 seconds on high.

  2. While water is heating juice the lemon.  Use 1/2 lemon if you weigh less than 150 pounds use the whole lemon if you weigh more than 150 pounds.

  3. Pour lemon juice into mug with hot water and stir well.  Drink with the temperature as hot as possible.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

You can use lime juice instead of lemon juice, if you prefer, and still retain most of the health benefits (the only question would be DNA-damage repair properties).

I like to batch-prep my lemon juice for the week.  Buy a 1-pound bag of lemons for the week and juice at once.  If you follow this approach you’ll want to add 2 tbsp. as the equivalent for 1 whole lemon.  And 1 tbsp. as the equivalent for 1/2 lemon.

Lemon or lime juice will last for 2 months (or more) when properly stored in a glass Mason jar in the fridge.

Right bout now you might have some questions about coffee or tea, if so you can read up my FAQs here to learn more about those topics when you’re following the nutritarian lifestyle.

Did you find this article to be helpful for you?  Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

Let’s live better together!
xo, Kristen

How to Optimize Your Space (and Prepare Your Kids) for Home-Schooling

Bring the classroom home.


little girl studying by the window
One thing is certain in these uncertain times: Self-isolating and shelter-in-place directives are begetting many challenges for parents with school-aged children, who are now unexpected to take on the teacher’s role while schools are closed. While resources and online learning tools exist, it’s a lot at once. Parents with little or no teaching experience are now facilitating remote learning while also coping with the stressors of a very different lifestyle (for some that could mean working from home, for others it might be a loss of income—all while trying to stay healthy) and a tense global climate during a pandemic.
To help families manage—or at least give both parents and children some constructive ideas for navigating this new balance—we tapped Tara Martello, M.S. to lend her expertise. The founder of Grow Thru Play, Martello is an occupational therapist with over a decade of experience treating children with attention difficulties from birth through adolescence in hospital, clinic, school and home environments. She shared tips for how to talk to kids about what’s going on (when we aren’t even really sure ourselves), as well as how to optimize your home—no matter how large or small it is—for online and at-home learning. At the end, we also included plenty of links to additional resources for low income households and families with any intellectual challenges.

Stick to a Daily Schedule

The transition from school to home may be exciting and painless for some kids and more glaringly challenging for others, but one common denominator is novelty. Martello emphasizes that kids’ cognitive associations with home are often tied to relaxation, fun, and family time; their behaviors are different in this familiar and comfortable space as opposed to the more rigid classroom environment. Understanding and empathizing with this is essential to exercising patience, and will also help parents reset boundaries to reflect the activities and expectations at hand.

Because children function best with a certain degree of structure, maintaining as much of their preexisting routine will be incredibly helpful. Though the backdrop is obviously different, doing little things like setting up a schedule similar to their school’s (even if it has yet to assign a new curriculum) will help keep their minds active and disruptions and transitional anxiety to a minimum. See a sample below, and adjust the timing and activities based upon your children’s needs and ages. You can also make it more specific to the assigned curriculum if that helps them.

coronavirus quarantine sample schedule for families

Set up Desks

First and foremost, Martello urges parents to “minimize distractions. That means no noise at all,” either from you, the television, vacuuming, or whatever. (Or, she says, if your children focus better with some background sound, play soft music or turn on a white noise machine. It might take some trial and error to decipher whether this helps them while they do schoolwork.)

“For the smallest space, even just a table is enough.” —Tara Martello, M.S.

It’s also important to set up an actual surface space for them to work on: Any table clear of clutter where they can sit upright will be just fine. If possible, Martello recommends a chair-and-table situation that allows for the 90-90-90 angle rule: knees bent at a 90-degree angle as well as hips and posture at a 90-degree angle and feet firmly on the floor. And good task lighting! In households that only have one table for the family to work from, try to assign different seats and sections to each family member. “The more designated, the better,” she says, as structure is essential.

To keep siblings focused on their work instead of playing with (or annoying) each other, consider sitting between them while you do your own work. If that doesn’t work—or if you can’t be in the same room with them for whatever reason—try the folder fort trick: Divide their separate spaces with folders to create mini cubicles. You could even turn folder decorating into a makeshift after school activity so they feel like it’s a fun, personal place to learn. Or, if your children are old enough and have their own rooms with desks, they might be able to better minimize distractions there.

Take Advantage of Digital Resources

A bright side: There are tons of great apps and online resources that’ll be especially valuable for learning at home. For example, if your kids miss their friends, coordinate with other parents to organize a virtual hangout with House Party, a video-based social networking app (unless, of course, they’re old enough to facilitate it themselves).

Additionally, says Martello, there are more and more free, live-streamed kid-friendly classes and activities popping up, from painting to yoga, story-time, and more. Browse IGTV for options or download Zoom to see if any of the programs and instructors have moved their sessions online so your children can still learn from them remotely. Documentaries and podcasts are also great options. Keeping them busy for a while will also hopefully free up some of your time. Do your best to reframe their perspective so they can see it as opportunity to slow down, talk and connect to loved ones, play with siblings more, and explore their more creativity.

Encourage Breaks From Screen-Time

While ideally, Martello says, children’s screen-time should be limited to two hours a day (as it can overtax their nervous systems), that’s trickier when everyone’s inside all day. At the very least, “Take breaks from the screen,” Martello says. “All work and screen time shouldn’t exceed 30 to 45 minutes at once.” So, every 30 or 45-minute learning interval should be followed by a 10 or 15-minute break.

If your kids can get outside while still practicing social-distancing, great! If not, try to move “recess” to a sunnier space by a window. What’s important is making sure the kids are active in the home before and after work time to break things up. Of course, this definitely won’t look or feel like “business as usual”—and that’s okay. Definitely expect some meltdowns from toddlers (and even college-aged students, and, probably yourself).

two girls doing homework at kitchen island

Open Up the Conversation

How you approach this will of course vary depending on your kids’ ages and maturity levels, but Martello’s general advice is to “help them identify what’s happening for them” emotionally. The key is to get them talking about their feelings, as that will help you see how you can best meet their emotional needs.

little kid playing with dollhouse

It probably goes without saying that this is not going to be a simple, one-time conversation, but rather an ongoing one that will change as the circumstances do. But in general, it’s a good idea to share how you’re feeling to get the conversation started. For example, if you miss your friends, Martello recommends saying something like, “I’m sad I can’t see my friends either.” This approach can validate their new emotions and make them feel less alone in the experience. If they ask about coronavirus specifically, Martello says to explain it as simply as possible. For example “this is a new virus that makes everyone feel different. Sometimes it looks just like a cold, but for other people, it makes them very sick and that’s why we have to stay inside for a while.”

It’s okay if they’re curious, just make sure to inform yourself as best as possible when providing them with answers. If your kids are older, you can explain that these are preventive measures we’re taking collectively as a community to ensure our hospitals don’t overcrowd. Be prepared for some complex questions—when the “school’s out” mentality wears off, “they will have questions about safety,” too, says. When appropriate, a little sense of humor can go a long way.

Look After Yourself, Too

With all these new stressors comes a variety of material consequences and emotional reactions for parents, no matter how well-adjusted and prepared they may be. When you’re anxious and overwhelmed, work through it the best you can before interacting with your children, Martello says. That can mean talking about it with a partner, friend, or therapist, going outside for some exercise if that’s an option, reading a comforting book, journaling, doing a guided meditation, crying it out in the shower, cooking, really whatever it is that centers you most.

Martello’s primary advice is to avoid oversharing or projecting your concerns onto your children. “When you use your children to process, that’s when it becomes unhealthy. Deal with your emotions and worries first so you can then help them handle theirs,” she clarifies.

Checking in with both yourself and your loved ones should become a regular part of your routine—a little morning, midday, and evening vibe check, if you will. “When we’re worried about our resources, we have to look within,” says Martell0. “We have our breaths. [COVID-19] is affecting our lungs and breaths. If we have it right now, let’s find that inner breath and calm and reach out,” Martello says.

More Resources for Families With Children

Super informative article from House Beautiful.  Here is their website:

Conversation Questions April Fool’s Day



  • What are some tricks people play on April Fool’s Day?
  • What is the background of this day?
  • Do you have the same tradition in your country?
  • Do you play tricks on April 1st?
  • What sort of tricks do you play?
  • Have you ever tried fooling your family on April Fool’s Day?
  • Do you always look forward to April Fool’s Day?
  • Have you ever been tricked on April 1st?
  • Are you mad if someone play tricks on you?
  • Do you know anyone that got married on April Fool’s Day?
  • Did someone play a trick on you? What was it?
  • Have you ever been fooled on April Fool’s Day?
    • If yes, how did you feel then?
  • How would you feel if you were being fooled by your dearest friends

A Part of Conversation Questions for the ESL Classroom.

100 Art Therapy Exercises

_100 Art Therapy Exercises

By Shelley Klammer


Deal with emotions like anger and sadness through these helpful exercises.

  1. Draw or paint your emotions. In this exercise, you’ll focus entirely on painting what you’re feeling.
  2. Create an emotion wheel. Using color, this activity will have you thinking critically about your emotions.
  3. Make a meditative painting. Looking for a creative way to relax?  Have trouble sitting still to meditate?  Meditative painting might be just the thing you’re looking for.  No painting skill or experience necessary – only a desire to relax and become more creative.
  4. Put together a journal. Journals don’t have to just be based around words. You can make an art journal as well, that lets you visually express your emotions.
  5. Explore puppet therapy. Puppets aren’t just for kids. Make your own and have them act out scenes that make you upset.
  6. Use line art. Line is one of the simplest and most basic aspects of art, but it can also contain a lot of emotion. Use simple line art to demonstrate visually how you’re feeling.
  7. Design a postcard you will never send. Are you still angry or upset with someone in your life? Create a postcard that expresses this, though you don’t have to ever send it.
  8. Create a family sculpture. For this activity, you makes a clay representation of each family member– mother, father, siblings, and any other close or influential family members to explore emotional dynamics and roles within your family.
  9. Paint a mountain and a valley. The mountain can represent a time where you were happy, the valley, when you were sad. Add elements that reflect specific events as well.
  10. Attach a drawing or message to a balloon. Send away negative emotions or spread positive ones by attaching a note or drawing to a balloon and setting it free.
  11. Draw Your Heart. Draw your feelings in a heart formation.

Remix ThisMandala 100 art therapy exercises

Art therapy can be a great way to relax. Consider these exercises if you’re looking to feel a little more laid back.

  1. Paint to music. Letting your creativity flow in response to music is a great way to let out feelings and just relax.
  2. Make a scribble drawing. With this activity, you’ll turn a simple scribble into something beautiful, using line, color and your creativity.
  3. Finger paint. Finger painting isn’t just fun for kids– adults can enjoy it as well. Get your hands messy and really have fun spreading the paint around.
  4. Make a mandala. Whether you use the traditional sand or draw one on your own, this meditative symbol can easily help you to loosen up.
  5. Draw with your eyes closed. Not being able to see what you are drawing intensifies fluidity, intuition, touch and sensitivity.
  6. Draw something HUGE. Getting your body involved and moving around can help release emotion as you’re drawing.
  7. Use color blocks. Colors often come with a lot of emotions attached. Choose several paint chips to work with and collage, paint and glue until you’ve created a colorful masterpiece.
  8. Let yourself be free. Don’t allow yourself to judge your work. If you think your paintings are too tight and controlled, this collection of tips and techniques to try should help you work in a looser style.
  9. Only use colors that calm you. Create a drawing or a painting using only colors that you find calming.
  10. Draw in sand. Like a Zen garden, this activity will have you drawing shapes and scenes in the sand, which can be immensely relaxing and a great way to clear your mind.
  11. Make a zentangle. These fun little drawings are a great tool for letting go and helping reduce stress.
  12. Color in a design. Sometimes, the simple act of coloring can be a great way to relax. Find a coloring book or use this mandala for coloring.
  13. Draw outside. Working en plein air can be a fun way to relax and get in touch with nature while you’re working on art.


More therapies on self, trauma, gratitude, inside the mind and more at: