Mental health and covid-19

Here are some suggestions we have to help you and/or your family during a time of social distancing and “shelter in place”.

Limit the amount of time you take in information and talk about Covid-19. We know the more we focus on something, the more it affects us. It is important we stay informed; however, it is also vital we focus on the things we can control and things that can bring us joy. It is especially important we try and create a safe place for our children that does not focus on fear. Children have very little control during these difficult times and a safe place is paramount.

We can all only do so much in one day. Have realistic expectations for yourself and others- This goes for everyone, including yourself. We can all benefit from giving ourselves and others some grace during this difficult time. Almost everyone is just trying to make it day to day. Especially right now, it is more challenging to maintain normalcy than ever before. Maintaining relationships with one another is much more important right now than getting schoolwork, chores or other things accomplished, I cannot emphasize this point enough! Ten years from now, you want to have a strong relationship with your family member, and it will not matter if they put the dishes in the sink or logged into their school work every day. The phrase “picking your battles” is very important to keep in the forefront of your mind.

Connection/family time – We are made to connect with others and our children need it. For parents – Schedule family time often. Again, the relationship is more important than task. If parents are only focusing on school, chores, and rules they become “police” instead of someone the children want to please and have a relationship with. Whether it is with your family and/or with others, we do have the ability with modern technology to connect with others. Many of us have extra time right now, which allows us to focus on family, friends, and other relationships. Games are a great way to connect with others, laugh, and stimulate your mind. There are many board games and also many online games such as Jackbox Games you can play online over zoom with friends. Netflix now has an app where you can watch TV with others; you can see each other, and it will pause it at the same time.

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If the above is all you can do at this point, stop reading! This pages is also an attempt to help and not overwhelm you!

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Sleep – This may go without saying, but we wanted to remind you that sleep is essential for our mental health. Maintaining sleep as part of our routine is important, including good sleep hygiene as we are preparing for bed. That being said, teenagers biologically a prone to go to bed later and wake up later then our society has created with their school schedule. If they are going to bed later and waking up later, this is called…… normal.

Maintain a positive “mantra” or saying – “We will get through this”, “this too shall pass”, and positive phrases like this are important reminders throughout the day. Make sure to share this saying with your family to help them as well. Our thoughts cause our feelings, so if we are more deliberate and mindful of our thoughts, we can feel significantly better. If we allow ourself to be focused on concerning information, it will have a negative impact on our emotional state.

Maintain a daily routine – Routines are important for us. However, it can be helpful to adjust your thinking right now about daily routines during this pandemic, that is, some of your pre-pandemic routines and expectations of others may have to be adjusted for right now and some not.  The essence/core is to establish daily routines right now that are needed and valued at this time, which will likely differ from family to family.  Take the time to pause and think about what is needed and valued right now your family.  This pandemic will end, and with it you will again adjust your daily routines at that time. For now, literally take it one day at a time and worry about tomorrow…..tomorrow.

Find things to smile and laugh about – Especially when things are difficult, laughter can give us perspective and foster hope. Call a friend and share a recent funny story, or take the opportunity to reflect on the good times in your life. Do something silly! My daughter spilled mac & cheese this evening on the couch and my dog jumped up and ate it. Rather than letting myself get frustrated, it provided some comedic relief for us as a family and made the night better. There are many, many great comedians who are available while you go for a drive, work on chores, or you can watch on TV.

Get outside – We were not meant to live in caves. Try and get outside for 30 minutes a day. Ideally, this would include some sort of exercise, but even if you go for a drive, it stimulates the mind and gets us “out of our own head” and gives us perspective.

Develop ways to relax/calm/ground yourself – We engage with the world using our 5 senses. The more we engage them, the less we can “be in our head”. Engaging these senses relaxes the nervous system and allows us to think more clearly, get perspective, then approach situations and people the way we desire. Most people do these unconsciously already, it is important to learn how and when to do these deliberately. Examples include; a bath, reading a book, diffusing oils, preparing great food, going for a drive, listening to music, video games, movies, etc. The possibilities and combinations are endless.

Focus on things within your control – We are all probably feeling that there are many things right now for which we have little control, but there are many more things that we do have control.  Therefore, exercise some control over things that ARE in your control.  For example, when I see that my floor needs to be vacuumed or my dishes need to be done, those actions are totally within my control for me to do that (or not), even though those may not be my preferred or favorite activities. The key point is that I have complete control over doing it (or not), and I have a true sense of control that I deliberately chose to do that or not do that.  Got a list of projects that have needed doing around your house? Choose one that you have complete control over doing, and YOU go for it.  Remember, it’s about YOU having control, not relying on anyone else.  One last point on control, we also can exercise control over our thoughts.  It takes some practice, but it can definitely be done.  As one example, thoughts worrying about tomorrow, only wastes time today.  

Make a wish list – This can include a “shelter in place” list of activities you want to do and can be a wish list of what you want to do when we are free to socialize again.

Local Resources:

The Alaska care line for anyone experiencing distress: Careline at 1-877-266-4357 (24/7 or text for help at 839863, 3-11 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.)

The social service information hotline: Dial 211

Providence behavioral health services:

Psychiatric Emergency:
907-212-2800

Crisis Line:
907-563-3200