For many in our community, life is slowly moving back to normal. However, for the elderly and those with underlying health issues, isolation is still a necessary safety precaution against the coronavirus. Unfortunately for some, staying home and safe can have serious mental and physical side-effects such as depression and anxiety.
Most everyone in our community has had their lives changed to some extent by the pandemic. Radical changes, such as being stuck at home to protect one’s health, are particularly disruptive. For many, the positive influences of engaging in simple activities such going to the store, the library, the senior center or church were underrated until these activities became serious health risks. Change is particularly stressful in conditions of uncertainty. We have no idea when a vaccine will be available and when it will be safe for everyone to go out again.
The steps for coping with stress during the pandemic have been well publicized by various media channels. (https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp)
Take care of your body – get plenty of sleep, eat right, exercise, don’t consume alcohol or drugs. Meditation can be very helpful.
Create a new daily and weekly routine. Set goals for each half of the day and make a plan.
Talk to friends and family regularly. Maintain healthy relationships.
Take breaks from watching the news.
Make some time for fun activities like puzzles, board games, crafts, music, reading, etc.
Seek help if you feel depressed, anxious, or sad.
This is excellent advice but sometimes it can be very challenging to develop new routines and maintain a healthy outlook.
If stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row, call your healthcare provider. Physical signs of depression or anxiety include headaches, stomach discomfort, eating disorders, back or neck pain, skin rashes and fatigue. Other manifestations of depression also include moodiness, poor sleep, inability to concentrate or complete tasks, procrastination, lack of interest, anger control issues or sadness. While mental health issues can result in physical concerns, healthcare providers might miss the signals if they are focused on underlying health issues or because depression can be mistaken for a normal part of aging. Do not disregard your body’s messages.
You are not alone and your reaction to isolation is not unusual. Sadly, due to the social stigmas related to mental health issues, embarrassment and shame often create a barrier to requesting help. There are services available to help normalize your feelings with no judgements. These services offer a safe place to talk, share your feelings and explore solutions. Talking to a therapist or a crisis line can help erase some of the stigma related to mental health. A variety of resources are available on the “Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resources” link at the bottom of www.RVMC.org. (National Suicide Prevention – 800-273-8255, Crisis Text Line – text HOME or MT to 741741, Bozeman HELP Center dial 211) Asking for and accepting help is a sign of strength.
If you’re concerned about your mental health but not ready to reach out to your healthcare provider, a therapist or a crisis line, please consider taking one of the mental health surveys available on the Mental Health America website (https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools). The website also offers a wide variety of techniques for creating healthy routines and attitudes.