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Pandemic related stress affecting mental health, experts say

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A local nonprofit organization is working to give people struggling with mental health options to cope, especially with coronavirus-related challenges.

It’s been more than a year since COVID-19 made its way into the Rio Grande Valley, and with it came many changes to everyday life. Experts say experiencing challenges with mental health is not uncommon.

“A lot of the time, people want to try to avoid stress,” Program Director for the nonprofit organization Unidad Coalition Elizabeth Paschal said. “But the reality is we do face stress on a daily basis.”

Experts say stress can stem from being away from loved ones, adjusting to remote learning or working, and dealing with fear.

While the Unidad Coalition focuses on underage drinking, binge drinking, and drug abuse, Paschal said they are pushing for everyone to assess their mental health.

“We encourage parents, we encourage young adults, to take care of their mental health in any way that they can,” she said.

Besides looking inward to see if you may be battling things like depression and anxiety, experts say staying away from addictive or masking substances is the intelligent choice.

“Stay away from abusing things like— alcohol,” Paschal said. “Alcohol is a depressant. It does bring out feeling like loneliness, sadness, anxiety, depression.”

But there are ways to work on your mental health at home.

Paschal said simple things like connecting with other people or exercising could help decrease stress; if you or a loved one find it difficult to do those things, you should consider speaking to a mental health professional.

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