In Spokane, our community has been hit hard by the pandemic’s impacts due to our business demographics and population.
According to the Washington state Employment Security Department, our economic engine in the Inland Northwest is a community of small employers. It is our small businesses that the change in consumer spending has most impacted.
The Inland Northwest also has many hospitality, retail, social, and health services businesses that have seen the highest level of unemployment claims in Washington State. Those businesses tend to employ more female workers than male workers. Women historically have sought employment in industries that allow flexibility. Many of these unemployed service workers are juggling homeschooling their children while problem-solving to feed and house their families. The squeeze is very real here.
Women had a disproportionate amount of low-paying jobs in those sectors before the pandemic. This job loss creates a fragile economy with which we as a community must come to grips. We are still dealing with these challenging times as our health care system is bursting at its seams; it deals with the increased need for mental health services due to the societal pain of a year living amidst a pandemic.
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 found that 40% of adults polled reported a spike in increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. There is an increase in difficulty sleeping, alcohol and substance use, and worsening chronic conditions due to stress and worry.
Specifically, 36% of those who participated in the poll reported having difficulty sleeping, and 12% increased alcohol and substance use. Also, 12% percent of those participating in the survey directly tied their suffering as a reaction to the coronavirus.
As this pandemic continues, mental health most likely will continue to be a challenge for our whole community. Here are four action steps you can take to impact positive change.
1. Talk about It
Talk about your feelings with your loved ones and your doctor. Don’t shoulder what you are going through alone. You may be feeling fine, but the person you talk with may be the person who needs a lift. Everyone needs to know the way they are feeling is shared by so many other people as well.
2. Be Curious
Talk about the ways you can start to live life differently. Perhaps it is exploring a new part of our community that you have never seen or visited before. What action can you take to do something positive that maybe you have never done before? Do you know your neighbors? Even though you masked, have you considered introducing yourself? There could be an opportunity to be of service.
3. Get Organized
If you feel squeezed emotionally and financially, have you taken some time to organize your upcoming day or week. Have you scheduled a time for you to do anything you want? So many working women, in particular, are continually giving everything away to others like their families, their employers, and their partners. They give away all their time and energy and have nothing left to give themselves. Prioritize yourself by blocking time for yourself on your calendar and let the others know you won’t be available for that blocked time.
4. Break from Negativity
If you watch the news, consider taking a break from it. News channels are not there to educate you. They are there to keep you glued to their content, so you watch the commercials that pay them money. Negative information keeps you glued, and wealthy television stations know precisely that. Turn off the technology that drains your time, like scrolling through social media or watching back-to-back Netflix, and instead research something that interests you and feeds your brain with useful information. Do not let technology control you; don’t let it be your master. Instead, embrace technology to learn something new, ideally every day. Control how you use technology, so it nourishes you with new ideas and creativity.
Here we are in 2021, and the pandemic is still with us, and for how long, we don’t know. We do know this period of time will change us forever, as individuals and as a community. We are being squeezed as individuals, and together we will come out of this better. We can do this. The vaccine is working, and our community is worth the time and effort we each can put in to make it stronger.