Mental health tips and how to cope during pandemic
CONTRIBUTED SACKVILLE TRIBUNE POST
NEW BRUNSWICK – The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) may be stressful for people and communities, as fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief and worry during and after a stressful situation. Everyone reacts differently, and your own feelings will change over time. Notice and accept how you feel. Taking care of your emotional health during a disease outbreak will help you think clearly and protect yourself and your family. Self-care during a stressful situation will help your long-term healing. Reactions during an infectious disease outbreak can include: – Fear and worry about your own health status and that of your loved ones who may have been exposed to COVID-19. – Changes in sleep or eating patterns. – Difficulty sleeping or concentrating. – Worsening of chronic health problems. – Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. – Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family, and your community recover from a disease outbreak. People with pre-existing mental health conditions should continue with their treatment plans during an emergency and monitor for any new symptoms. Things you can do to support yourself: – Take care of your body: Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol and other drugs. – Take breaks: Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try to do activities you usually enjoy. – Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking. – Connect with others: Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships. – Stay informed: When you feel that you are missing information, you may become more stressed or nervous. Watch, listen to, or read the news for updates from officials. – Be aware that there may be rumours during a crisis, especially on social media. Always check your sources and turn to reliable sources of information like public health authorities. – Avoid too much exposure to media coverage of COVID19: Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks. – Seek help when needed: If you experience stress reactions (feelings or behaviours) in response to the COVID-19 outbreak for several days in a row and are unable to carry out normal responsibilities because of them, contact your health-care provider or your local addictions and mental health centre. FOR KIDS We know that COVID-19 is probably on your mind. Everyone is talking and worrying about it. And all your favourite activities and places are being cancelled or closed. So how are you supposed to deal with all of this? Here are some tips: 1. Keep active It is important for both your physical and mental health to do 30 minutes of exercise a day. This can include going for a walk, stretching/yoga, playing active video games, or having a dance party. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it gets you moving. Do something you already love to do or try something new. Maybe even set a new goal for yourself, such as being able to do 10 push-ups, being able to touch your toes, or learning a new dance routine. Share your goal with others and post pictures or updates of your progress so others can cheer you on. 2. Have fun Do things that make you feel good. You could go outside and play or stay in to read a book. Be creative and make a craft. Draw, write or make music. All of these things can help you feel good and relaxed. You might even find some fun things online that will allow you to continue to participate in activities you enjoy. For example, some dance companies are starting to offer free live dance classes online. Or some musical artists are streaming live concerts. See what you can find. 3. Keep a routine Even though you may have nowhere to go, with school and activities cancelled, it’s important to keep a fairly regular routine. On weekdays, change into daytime clothes (save the pajamas for the weekend). Create a schedule for each day, including things like physical activity, learning, fun, connecting with friends and family, and quiet time. If you need help, check out https:// mommyhood101.com/dailyschedule-for-kids for some ideas. It’s also very important to sleep, exercise, and eat healthy food every day. 4. Exercise your brain Just because school is cancelled, doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. Continue doing some form of learning every week day. Your teachers may send home some things that you could do or you can find learning activities on line. For example, Khan Academy offers free and fun online learning for kids. Check them out at www.khanacademy.org. 5. Try to stay calm It is normal to feel worried about COVID-19 or sad about how it is affecting your life. Learn some ways to cope with the feelings by checking out www.kidshelpphone.ca. If you think you are getting too stressed and might need some help, here are some options: 1. Talk to your parents, or another adult that you trust. 2. Contact Kids Help Phone for help. 3. Visit their website at www.kidshelpphone.ca. 4. Text TALK to 686868 to chat with a volunteer Crisis Responder 24/7. 5. Call 1-800-668-6868. 6. Keep in Touch – Even though we are all being asked to keep our distance from each other, that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with family and friends. In fact, it’s very important for your mental health to keep in touch. Use technology to help you contact your friends and family regularly. Connect using the phone, social media, Facetime or Whatsapp, etc. – whatever works for you and your family. Maybe you can even teach a grandparent how to use one of these options so that they can stay in touch. 7. Help Out – Knowing your family has a plan can help you feel more safe and secure. Talk to your family about the plans they are making to keep your family as safe as possible. Ask them if there is something you can do to help. They might put you in charge of some tasks around the house, like making sure everything is kept clean. 8. Know the Facts – It can be helpful to learn more about COVID-19, how to protect yourself, what the symptoms are and what to do if you feel sick. There is a lot of information out there about COVID-19, but it’s important to make sure you are getting your information trustworthy sources. But, don’t spend too much time watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about it too much. FOR PARENTS: 1. Children react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared. 2. Not all children respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for in children: – Excessive crying and irritation – Returning to behaviours they have outgrown (e.g., toileting accidents or bedwetting) – Excessive worry or sadness – Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits – Irritability and “acting out” behaviours – Difficulty with attention and concentration – Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past – Unexplained headaches or body pain – Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs 3. There are many things you can do to support your child: – Take time to talk with your child about the COVID19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID19 in a way that your child can understand. – Reassure your child that they are safe. Let them know it is okay if they feel upset. – Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you. – Limit your child’s exposure to media coverage of the event. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand. – Help your child to have a sense of structure. Once it is safe to return to school or child care, help them return to their regular activity. – Be a role model; take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members and rely on your social support system. FOR RESPONDERS: Responding to disease outbreaks is both rewarding and challenging work. Sources of stress for emergency responders may include witnessing human suffering, risk of personal harm, intense workloads, life-and-death decisions and separation from family. Stress prevention and management is critical for responders to stay well and to continue to help in the situation. There are important steps responders should take before, during, and after an event. To take care of others, responders must be feeling well and thinking clearly. People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment plans during an emergency and monitor for any new symptoms. Here are some important steps responders can take to ensure they are able to do their job and cope with challenging situations: – Try to learn as much as possible about what your role would be in a response. – If you will be traveling or working long hours during a response, explain this to loved ones who may want to contact you. Come up with ways you may be able to communicate with them. Keep their expectations realistic and take the pressure off yourself. – Talk to your supervisor and establish a plan for who will fill any urgent ongoing work duties unrelated to the emergency while you are engaged in the response. – Understand and identify burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Responders experience stress during a crisis. When stress builds up it can cause burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Recognize the signs of both of these conditions in yourself and other responders to be sure those who need a break or need help can address these needs. Burnout include feelings of extreme exhaustion and being overwhelmed. Signs of burnout include: – Sadness, depression, or apathy – Blaming of others, irritability – Lacking feelings, indifference – Isolation or disconnection from others – Poor self-care (hygiene) – Tired, exhausted or overwhelmed – Feeling like: a failure; nothing you can do will help; you are not doing your job well; you need alcohol/other drugs to cope Secondary traumatic stress – stress reactions and symptoms resulting from exposure to another individual’s traumatic experiences, rather than from exposure directly to a traumatic event. Signs of secondary traumatic stress include: – Excessive worry or fear about something bad happening – Easily startled, or “on guard” all of the time – Physical signs of stress (e.g. racing heart) – Nightmares or recurrent thoughts about the traumatic situation Use responder self-care techniques, which can help prevent and reduce burnout and secondary traumatic stress: – Wherever possible, limit working hours to no longer than 12-hour shifts. – Work in teams and limit amount of time working alone. – Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19. – Write in a journal. – Create a menu of personal selfcare activities that you enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family, exercising, or reading a book. – Talk to family, friends, supervisors, and teammates about your feelings and experiences. – Practice breathing and relaxation techniques. – Maintain a healthy diet and get adequate sleep and exercise. – Know that it is okay to draw boundaries and say “no.” – Avoid or limit caffeine and use of alcohol. It is important to remind yourself: – It is not selfish to take breaks. – The needs of survivors are not more important than your own needs and well-being. – Working all the time does not mean you will make your best contribution. – There are other people who can help in the response. – Responding to disasters can be both rewarding and stressful. Knowing that you have stress and coping with it as you respond will help you stay well, and this will allow you to keep helping those who are affected. AFTER A RESPONSE: Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the outbreak. Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned.