Connection in an isolated age
Stay at home. Venture out only when necessary. Don’t have people over. Meetings, church, restaurants and bars, service clubs, schools, coffee shops, and more of the usual ways we talk with and connect with others are closed. We can’t visit elders in the assisted living and nursing homes, nor can we visit the sick and injured in the hospital. Isolation can be detrimental to mental health. We asked Champion State of Mind how kuru reader can cope with this time of isolation.
Becky Nosbusch, MSW, LICSW, LISW, answered our questions.
How can people cope with common anxieties during a pandemic?
Different things work for different people to calm anxiety, some of the main things people can do are use positive self talk, practice their religious belief if they have one, meditate and reach out to others for connection and comfort. Don’t be afraid to tell people how you are feeling, it can be helpful just to hear that you are not alone with your anxiety.
With the growth of cases in and around Iowa, some community members have expressed fear that they or someone in their family will get sick. What are some ways to deal with that fear?
Follow the CDC guidelines. Stay home as much as possible, wash your hands and avoid eating with your hands and touching your face. If you are following the guidelines you will be able to tell yourself that you are doing everything you can and anything else is outside of your control. Things outside of our control can certainly cause anxiety as well but it helps if we are doing what we can and should be to keep illness at bay.
Being out of work, having one’s business shut the doors or reduce hours can also cause anxiety.
These are certainly difficult times for many people, if you need assistance do not be ashamed to ask for it. Check with your governments, programs and local agencies to see if they have any short term help available. Think positively, remember times in the past that may have been difficult and how you overcame them. Again, most of this is beyond our control and trusting the government to provide for us is not easy but they are starting to put some programs in place.
Remind yourself that it is likely temporary, keeping busy and focusing your time and talents on things that you can do right now can be helpful. Remind yourself that there is no amount of money that can replace a lost life and although you may feel well, we are all in this together to protect those most vulnerable.
What if someone’s not sure they have enough health care coverage if they get the virus?
We as a country have seen some pretty severe gaps in our healthcare system in a very short period of time since the virus made its way to the US. I think we have also seen some amazing ways people are coming together to help others. If you need testing or treatment, present to your local ER (or call ahead if this is their current requirements), they will help you navigate this and always remember, tell people what you need, providers may have access to programs or funding but they can’t help you if you don’t tell them this is a concern for you.
There are those who can’t stay home. What about the worry of the heightened risk of exposure?
First know how much everyone who depends on you appreciates that job you are doing. Most employers have put in place safety plans to allow social distancing even when at work. Do your best to be safe, follow your companies protocols and talk with your employer if you are in a high-risk population since they may be able to find something of less risk for you to do for the time being. Employers have a vested interest in you remaining healthy, if they are not providing what you need to do so please make your concerns known. If you must continue to do your job as you always have, acknowledge that this might be something that causes you anxiety, reach out for professional help or at the very least find a coworker that understands to talk to about it.
How can people cope with the effects of long-term social distance and isolation?
We would encourage people to think outside the box in connecting with others. There are many great ideas for doing this on Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites. Reach out to your neighbors, friends and family. Just a simple call or text to say you are thinking of them can mean so much. Look for ways we don’t use much anymore but that were the go-to for centuries to communicate such as letter writing, kids especially love getting mail. Send cards, letters, pictures to your local nursing homes.
As well, work on establishing your own routine given the current circumstances. This routine does not have to be rigid, but it should have some set goals. For example, each day you will get up around the same time and shower. Eat your meals around the same time each day too. Create a list of “to do” items that you could work on at home or projects you have been meaning to do, but have not found the time to do. Remember that we, as humans, feel a greater sense of accomplishment if we can follow through with a goal and see the final result. So find goals that have a tangible end point. Such as painting a room, sorting family pictures, building a dog house, knitting a blanket, painting a picture or decluttering your home.
If you are looking to reduce your anxiety, meditation and soft music can be a powerful coping skill, there are lots of great YouTube videos that can help you learn this practice. Consider picking up a hobby that you have not tried before or doing research on a topic that you have always enjoyed. Others are even starting to do research on their family lineage or connecting to new social groups online. When possible, continue to go outside for fresh air and sunlight. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Try to not stay sitting all day, but minimally get some light exercise in. Additionally, keep in mind the need to minimize social networking and media exposure if you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by recent news or events. It is OK to shut the TV off or uninstall Facebook from your phone for a while. We all need a break sometimes from such large stressors.
Also remember especially in times like this the way we talk to ourselves has a huge impact on our emotions. Try changing the negative and anxious thoughts in your mind to more positive ones, tell yourself, every day, things will be ok and will get better.
Nosbusch and Amanda J. Olson, MS, LMHC, NCC, Founder, CEO and Mental Health Therapist at Champion State of Mind encouraged community members to reach out to their therapists if they need help. They are providing mental health services by telehealth. Olson also linked to online meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous for those dealing with addiction and dual diagnosis issues.