By Lori Goldin-Baran L.L.P., L.P.C., Newaygo County Mental Health
May is National Mental Health Month and we asked the folks from Newaygo County Mental Health to provide us with a series of articles to help promote awareness of the resources available for those seeking help. In this fifth installment Lori Goldin-Baran riffs on some ways to cope during these unsettling times
I feel lucky as I am one of the few during this time of social distancing that I am an introvert. As I sit here looking out my window, I am mindful of the beauty of nature, the birds I hear singing through my window, the snow coming down in May and the little bit of sun that is peeking through the clouds. I know that others are not so lucky.
As a Case Manager and therapist at a Rural Community Mental Health agency in Michigan, I feel lucky, I know my friends, my clients and my coworkers are not having as easy of a time as I am getting through the Covid-19 social distancing quarantine order like I am. I have had friends message me with thoughts of suicide, panic, anxiety and boredom. I have had clients struggle with higher than normal anxiety level and boredom. I have had clients who normally are confined to their homes who to me appear to do nothing but watch television all day, struggle to find something to occupy their time during this pandemic inform me that they are going stir crazy. I had had clients tell me they feel so alone, they hurt and that they are afraid that they are going to die alone with this virus. I have had coworkers tell me on Zoom meetings that their own depression level is sky high. I have had coworkers lash out using all caps because they too are anxious working from home. These are coworkers treating our clients with severe and persistent mental illness. So I am worried, but I am lucky. I am an introvert who is busy, possibly too busy to deal with my own feelings of worry.
I have heard from friends who love this time, they usually are so busy working, commuting, taking care of family that they rarely have time to do anything to take care of themselves. I have heard that they are having an amazing time, cleaning, cooking, crafting and talking to their kids, watching Netflix and making the best of a really difficult time. These are effective coping skills for some. As a Dialectical Behavior Therapist, practicing participation and opposite action skills works well. These types of coping skills help you go with the flow of things even when you don’t feel like it. They are the fake it until you make it skills.
One of the most difficult things during this time of quarantining at home is the onslaught of negative news. The daily Press conferences, the Facebook posts. Criticism is everywhere you turn. It has become a burden to even pick up your phone. I know it has for myself and my clients. Every week when my phone sends me the little message stating how much time I spent online, I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I have tried to find something positive each day to post, I make a game out of posting pictures of my socks of the day based on how I feel when I wake up each day. How is that for opposite action? I’ve encouraged my clients to put their phones down, get off their computers and go outside and look up at the sky and just embrace nature. Breathe in and out, and practice mindfulness. Look up at the stars, take a walk in the woods or just simply walk your dog or prayer to whatever God you believe in. The art of mindfulness is a way to just be in the present moment, accept reality as it is and let go of the negative stressful feelings that have taken over you. Mindfulness has been proven to be beneficial with stress reduction, pain management, attention related symptoms, weight loss goals and to temporarily alleviate negative feelings.
On a daily basis it is important to continue as much of a normal schedule as possible. Wake up and go to bed at your normal time. Continue to take your medications, eat healthy if possible, I know being closer to your refrigerators 24/7 this may be difficult. Get exercise by walking or even by lifting soup cans from your pantry.
I feel lucky because I am a helper, I am a friend and I have the ability to see that this too shall pass. The stay at home order will end and will all move on to go back to work, to eat out, to see our friends, to travel, to shop and to once again achieve some kind of normalcy. However, life as we know it may never be the same as all remember the season of the great pandemic of 2020. May is mental health awareness month. If you or someone you know is struggling please reach out.
You are not in this alone. I care.
As a reminder, our crisis line is available for anyone and can be accessed 24/7 by calling 231-689-7580; Newaygo County Mental Health is ready to care for you.
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