Guidance on how to stay as mentally healthy as possible.
PROVIDENCE — If ever there were a time to freak out, this is it.
But experts say there are ways to ease the stress and emotional difficulties of living through a pandemic, when many people are isolated, unemployed and obsessed with news and social media reports, the routines of normal life interrupted, with no certain end yet declared.
“Everyone is struggling, given the massive financial and health-related uncertainties at this time. Expect that you are going to have a lot of ups and downs,” said Lisa A. Uebelacker, assistant director of the Psychosocial Research Program, and staff psychologist, at Butler Hospital.
“Go outside. Get some exercise. Connect with someone you care about. Do something that is meaningful to you — work, continuing education, meditation, crafts, music, cooking, religious reading and prayer, etc. You can also try something brand new to you. There are many free online classes right now.”
Also, “actively look for ways to be kind to others who may be lonely or scared. Go out of your way to say thank you to the health-care workers, grocery store workers, delivery people, public safety officials, and other people who are carrying us through this difficult time.”
And, “be a leader in following public-health guidelines for social distancing, handwashing, staying at home, and any other guidelines. Limit the time you spend reading news about the pandemic.”
The Butler Hospital Behavioral Health Service Call Center is available 24/7 at (844) 401-0111.
Mindfulness can also be useful, says one of the nation’s leading practitioners and instructors, Dr. Judson Brewer, of Brown University and Butler.
“As a psychiatrist now sheltering in place, I’ve been trying to pitch in from home to help out with the mental health side of things,” he told The Journal.
“I have been putting out short videos every day to help people develop good mental habits instead of getting stuck in anxiety and endlessly checking the news. For each topic, I first start with a little science of what is going on — for example, how anxiety plus social contagion equals panic — and then give a pragmatic tip that they can start practicing today.”
Among the topics: “How to spread connection instead of contagion. How to stop compulsively checking the news. How to work with uncertainty and take it one day at a time. Why everyone is panic buying and four things you can do to help. Who is having trouble sleeping? I sure am. Here’s why anxiety makes sleep worse and what to do.”
Brewer is adding a new video every day. They can be found on his YouTube page: https://bit.ly/2WL4OhI
Parents and other caregivers can help their children and families in several ways, says Margaret R. Paccione-Dyszlewski, director of clinical innovation at Bradley Hospital. Among them:
“Even if work and school schedules have changed, it doesn’t mean your day can’t have a sense of normalcy to it,” she writes on her blog. “Get up at the same time in the mornings and get ready for your day as you normally would. Create a schedule for the family of school or work time.”
“Be sure to stay up to date about the latest on the outbreak, as well as additional recommendations from local public-health authorities. Websites like the Rhode Island Department of Health and the CDC are excellent sources.”
“We are so fortunate that we live in such a connected world. Technology affords us a way to contact educators, classmates and colleagues. Remember, your children likely miss their school peers; friends and neighbors are just a phone call or social media post away. This may be a time to relax family limits on phone and screen time, maybe just a little!”
More details and tips are on Paccione-Dyszlewski’s coronavirus blog: https://bit.ly/2wBRhyp
If you are in recovery, know that support continues. RI Recovery Peer Specialists is among the groups continuing operations, albeit in modified form to help ensure safety.
“The peer specialists in our state are really stepping up big time,” Lynn Farkas, a peer specialist at Riverwood Mental Health Service in Warren, told The Journal.
“They are offering the support to people in recovery through all kinds of online activities. They are holding virtual groups and meetings. They are keeping people connected in time of crisis, all while trying to manage their own often-severe mental illness and addiction recoveries.”
Resources are available at the RI Recovery Peer Specialists Facebook page, https://bit.ly/3du5xKk
Also, people living with substance-use disorders can continue to receive support and treatment from providers, including those at the many centers operated by CODAC Behavioral Healthcare, the state’s largest such organization.
“Our caring staff is working around the clock to provide treatment while keeping your safety as our top priority,” CODAC states on its website, https://codacinc.org/ “To access care call (401) 490-0716, for counseling support, call (401) 477-0041” More also at www.facebook.com/CODACBehavioralHealthcare/
The state’s BHLink hotline, for mental and behavioral health concerns, is answered around the clock: (401) 414-5465. Website: www.bhlink.org/
Questions and Answers about coronavirus.
On Twitter: @gwaynemiller