Coronavirus (COVID-19) has presented people around the world with scenarios that require extreme measures. As a community, we are helping to flatten the curve by working and learning remotely, staying home and physically distancing from one another when a trip outside the home is required. While this is important to help manage the spread of the virus, it’s also important to take care of your mental health and manage your stress and emotions effectively during this time of uncertainty.
Q. I am used to social interaction. How can I socially interact with family and friends safely?
A. Human beings are, by nature, social creatures, and many of us, seniors especially, already suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation to some degree. Now more than ever, we need to make an effort to check in on our family and friends on a regular basis. Phone conversations and video chats are a great way to do this. Some extended families are connecting all together on videoconferencing platforms. Consider sending a letter or card, or if you have kids, have them draw a special picture for their grandparents.
Q. What are some general ideas to help keep a positive outlook during this uncertain time?
A. Making your best effort to take charge of what you can control is key to maintaining well-being. Ways to do this may include limiting your exposure to the news, taking time for a hobby or picking up a new one, getting outside for a walk or a run, and talking to friends and family regularly. Understand that you are doing your best, just like everyone else, and that we will all get through this together.
Q. What are some ways to manage stress during the outbreak of COVID-19?
A. It’s normal to feel stressed and anxious during a time like this. Some things to try to mitigate that stress and anxiety might include getting regular exercise, including going outside for fresh air, maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and rest and staying connected with family and friends. Some people find meditation to be helpful. There are several apps and websites that can help guide you in calming exercises.
Q. Are there any local resources available to those who may be struggling?
A. Yes, there are several local resources available, including:
• 2-1-1 of Northeast Michigan for referrals and assistance with essential needs
• Disaster Distress helpline, 800-985-5990 or text “talkWithUs” to 66746, or visit www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov
• Crisis Hotline – Community Mental Health for Central Michigan, 800-317-0708
• Senior Services in Midland, 989-633-3700, or visit www.seniorservicesmidland.org
In addition, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has established a Warmline for persons with mental health conditions. The Warmline will be operated by Certified Peer Support Specialists. Individuals calling the Warmline will be provided with support by peers who have their own lived experience with mental health issues. They will be providing wellness supports and a listening ear. Call 888-333-7753.
As a service to the community, MidMichigan Health has also published a COVID-19 informational hotline with a reminder of CDC guidelines and recommendations. Staff is also available to help answer community questions. The hotline can be reached toll-free at 800-445-7356 or 989-794-7600.
Those interested in learning more about COVID-19 may visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.
Kathy Dollard, Psy.D., is the director of behavioral health at MidMichigan Health.