Keeping Your Mental Health In Check During The Coronavirus Pandemic
The realization that the Coronavirus could adversely affect my family and workplace hit me Friday morning when I received several emails and phone calls regarding our fundraiser on the following Sunday. Do not get me wrong, I had prepared with food and other household items at home. I had spoken to staff about cleaning the agency, not coming in sick and not seeing clients that were ill. I had decided to close the agency until March 31st. After that time, we would reevaluate our plan. I had implemented safety precautions for the fundraiser. I thought I had it all planned out and was prepared. But Friday arrived! I was overwhelmed with news reports, emails and phone calls. The news reports were confusing and overwhelming. The emails and phone calls were about people’s fears regarding the fundraiser. It hit me that this virus would have a longer term effect on me and the agency then I had realized. I reached out to my support system for advice regarding rescheduling the fundraiser and how to handle staff/donors concerns. I am lucky to have a supportive staff, family and friends. I am not an expert on the virus but this blog will contain information that is designed to help people deal with the emotions related to this current crisis. Please email me any questions/concerns that you may have regarding mental health issues over the next weeks (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Here are the first questions that I have received.
1. I am feeling a lot of anxiety and worries due to the coronavirus. What should I do?
· Do not panic! Instead develop a plan on how you and your family will get through the next weeks. For example: paint a room; finish a craft project or start a new one; learn a new skill or new language or make a quilt.
· Talk to your support system via telephone/Facetime/internet/etc. Letter writing takes longer to both write and receive feedback. But it can be very satisfying to receive a letter or card.
· Set up a time to go outside and wave or talk to neighbors (stay 6 feet away). Humans need contact so seeing others is important. While we need to stay 6 feet away, most of us have the ability to go to a window, deck or front porch so do so even if for a few minutes. I was taught that shouting at others was rude but this is a time to break that rule. If possible, arrange the outside time with others.
· Limit the amount of time that you watch the news or internet regarding the virus. Even the experts do not know everything about this illness so it changes day by day. You need to keep informed but not overwhelmed by the information. One thing we learned from 911 was that people were traumatized by news coverage. Spend some time doing a fun activity.
2. My children are home from school but are complaining about being bored.
· I suggest to the people that are going to work from home and/or have children to set up work areas in the home. Due to your type of work, you may need to have separate areas or separate work/homework time frames. The time period for at home work or school work should be the same every day.
· I am not an expert on homework ideas but would suggest looking at educational apps or check out ideas on Pinterest.
· They need time to play, run around and talk with their friends. You can make rules that they stay in your yard/deck or porch. It is harder for children in apartment buildings. A couple of ideas are to have small children form a train that goes around the apartment and picks up things (great way to clean) or have a scavenger hunt inside the house (prize can be simple like picking the television show or choose between 2 options for dinner).
3. I am concerned about an elderly family member. What can I do!
· This population is our biggest concern so check in with them via internet/Facetime/etc.
· Ask them if they need anything. Even if it is just a phone call.
· You can send them food packages from online sources if you do not live in the area. For fun, think outside the box and send from online gift basket sources.
· If they are a neighbor, then arrange to go out on your porch or deck so that you can have a long distance conversation. If gives you a chance to check on them and it will increase both you and their positive mental health.