How to prioritize your mental wellness during the pandemic​

How to prioritize your mental wellness during the pandemic

When COVID-19 first broke out, it seemed as though the entire world had turned upside down. Everything we did before the virus—daily activities we participate in, how we communicate and interact with one another, how we travel—would never be the same again. Feelings of uncertainty and fear resulted from altered daily routines, financial stresses, and social isolation. More than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic started, many people continue to face challenges that are stressful and overwhelming. Although most people are back to school, work, and going out with friends again, many carry the impacts of the pandemic with them. Many still fear that their family members may be affected by the virus now that schools, workplaces, grocery stores and other large public gathering places have reopened. The anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness experienced during the pandemic is natural, but learning effective self care strategies and receiving proper care can help individuals cope.

First, be mindful of your physical health. Getting enough sleep, participating in regular physical activity, eating nutritious foods, avoiding harmful substances, and taking the time to relax can play a huge part in your mental wellbeing. For example, try finding an activity that includes movement, such as dance, or find techniques, such as yoga or reading, that help you relax. This will lower your body’s stress hormones and release endorphins which will reduce feelings of pain and ultimately improve your mood.

Try to reduce stress triggers. Maintain a regular schedule, limit social media which may expose you to inaccurate information about the pandemic, find reliable sources for pandemic news, spend time doing hobbies you enjoy, and choose to focus on the positive things in your life. Reliable sources to help keep up to date on COVID recommendations include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Hobbies you might like include reading books, writing in a journal, crafting, cooking, and many more.

Finally, strengthen relationships and build support. If you go to school or work remotely from home or need to isolate yourself due to COVID, try to find time for virtual socialization by texting or videochat. These are only a few ways to help reduce stress and relax. There are many ways to reduce anxiety and stress, try several methods and find what works for you.

TJ, Yi and Shradha

Editor’s Note

The idea of youth voice takes on many forms, including sharing experiences and ideas with policy makers, which many of the young people of Our Tomorrow have done. 

However, young people’s experiences and ideas are abundant and we at Our Tomorrow and UP Partnership wanted to create a space for them to share their thoughts on current issues they face around mental wellness. This is a series of blogs that we will share monthly that highlight these experiences, thoughts and opinions. Thank you to The Center for Young Minds and The Ecumenical Center for partnering with us for this initiative.

These thoughts and opinions do not expressly represent the thoughts of UP Partnership, its leadership team or board of directors.

Leaping Forward Together: Reflecting on Seven Years of Partnership

Leaping Forward Together: Reflecting on Seven Years of Partnership

My family and I made the leap to San Antonio seven years ago this July. We wanted to be closer to our parents and we wanted our parents to be involved in our children’s lives. We were also excited to escape Chicago winters, even knowing we were trading them for the unrelenting heat of Texas summers.

This was a leap that led to many others. 

I was fortunate to get a job supporting Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio. Two years into that work I took on the executive role with UP Partnership, known at the time as the  P16Plus Council. We then merged Excel Beyond the Bell and UP in service of making San Antonio the “top city in the country for youth to learn, grow, and thrive.” 

These roles connected me to collective impact – the art and science of working across institutions to solve big population level problems, such as educational equity. Collective impact quickly became my professional home. It gave me a way to combine my commitment to young people and my passion for urban planning, largely by building new structures for focused partnerships. 

I love how collective impact constantly draws us into the unknown, calling us forth into new possibilities. It helps us to see that there is an infinite pool of solutions waiting to take shape: Connections that need to be built. Agreements waiting to be formed. Collaborations ready to take root. And so many of these possibilities require enhanced versions of ourselves, new ways of showing up in the work.

Throughout these years, I’ve had the great fortune of working with more than two dozen staff and hundreds of passionate volunteers. Together, as one friend said, “we have thinned the walls that separate our institutions.” We have built a growing community movement by embracing emergence at each step of the way. 

While some benefits of this movement are intangible, many of the results are concrete. 

Through the leadership of Diplomás, we’ve built breakthrough training resources and large-scale convenings for educators. Through My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, the Restorative Practices Collaborative has scaled restorative justice tools such as peace circles and corners, reducing several school districts’ reliance on punitive discipline. Through Excel Beyond the Bell, youth serving agencies have gained unprecedented access to program data and Excel Academy has helped dozens of agencies build higher quality relationships with those they serve, a key to strong program outcomes. 

Working alongside many other contributors, our collective has helped the larger San Antonio community to deepen its commitment to racial equity. We were among the first communities in the country to commit to an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, we have set a shared North Star of attaining 70% postsecondary enrollment for our high school graduates by 2030, a goal that will help to uproot longstanding racial, ethnic, economic, and geographic disparities.

Together we’ve helped bring tens of millions of new dollars to the table to support young people. This has happened through: multi-million dollar increases in how the city funds youth violence prevention, a dedicated $10 million youth recovery fund through ARPA, $4 million in new community grants we’ve facilitated through Blue Meridian Partners, and $14 million in gifts we’ve helped shape through the Corporate Partners for Racial Equity in partnership with the San Antonio Area Foundation and the United Way. 

Importantly, we haven’t settled for just using our own voices. We have prepared young people for future waves of advocacy. This was initially accomplished by revitalizing the San Antonio Youth Commission and more recently through youth-led research, policy training, grantmaking, and storytelling in conjunction with partners such as SAY Sí.

Collectively, we have treated the unknown as a stepping stone to discovering what’s possible. As a result, we have found new ways of leading together, built a movement that is now more unified than ever, and many of us have made close new friendships along the way. 

The next phase of our work will be anchored by the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, which supports our new bold North Star goal. This plan is backed by nearly seventy institutions, including local government departments, school districts, universities, non profits, and funders. These partners have all made explicit commitments to scaling Healing instead of punishment, Access instead of disconnection, and Voice instead of isolation, the must HAVEs for our young people to shine.  

Today, so many leaps later, I am proud to walk alongside so many of you brilliant community champions. Thank you all for your dedication to this work and for allowing UP Partnership and myself to support along the way. I am excited to continue leaping forward together and, in so doing, breaking down the walls that separate us.

In very serious cahoots,

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon