Dr. Ruth Zuniga

Dr. Ruth Zuniga says there is not manual on how to cope during a pandemic, but adds that self-care activities are important.


Oregon Health Authority is addressing the issue of mental health during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with myriad measures. This included a recent informational presentation in which two speakers in the field of psychiatry presented practical measures that the average person can implement into their daily lives.

The first speaker was Dr. Jonathan Belinski, senior health advisor for OHA. Belinski is the director of the division of public psychiatry at Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland.

“We want you to know that it’s OK — it’s even natural — to not feel OK right now,” he said.

Belinski said it is challenging to try and stay sane in a world that doesn’t feel sane. He explained that there is help available and offered the phone number of a hotline called Safe + Strong Oregon which is a service available through the Oregon Health Authority.

Belinski said that there are several types of practical measures that a person can take to improve their mental health, which include setting a small and achievable daily goal. He used basic household chores as examples, like folding the laundry or vacuuming. Belinski said that setting goals like this and doing them, helps a person regain mastery and control of their environment and in so doing helps alleviate anxiety.

Other practical steps a person can take to improve their mental health, according to Belinski, are to take a moment and enjoy something on purpose, and to connect with another human being, the latter of which can be done through audio or video chats in order to maintain physical distancing.

“Focus on the present moment,” said Belinski, who explained how when a person reorients themselves to engage with the present, it can help to reduce the amount of anxiety a person is experiencing.

Next, Dr. Ruth Zuniga, Associate Professor, Pacific University, addressed the notion that with the pandemic, there is “constantly a sense of uncertainty.”

Zuniga posed the question of how can we strengthen our emotional and psychological wellbeing and protect our mental health? She said to go to the basics and identify something to be thankful for and “counting blessings” saying this activity is important for mental health.

Zuniga reminded viewers that there is no manual on how to cope during a pandemic. She also said to engage in self-care activities, saying that emotions and feelings being experienced during this difficult time are valid and for people to remember to be kind to themselves.

Griffin Hewitt is a news reporter at The Argus Observer. He can be reached at (541) 823-4814 or by emailing griffinh@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com.

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