POTSDAM — St. Lawrence Health System Director of Outpatient Psychiatric Services Laurie Zweifel, PhD, said things people on edge or feeling overwhelmed by the news of COVID-19, can do things to better help themselves cope, and can find people who can assist them.
“We encourage our patients to try and focus on the ‘what is’ and not ‘what if.’ It is important to feel grounded and live in the present. Think about all the things you have right now — food, friends and family, shelter and medications,” she said. “Looking at things day-by-day and sticking to a routine may help.”
Other coping suggestions from Dr. Zweifel include taking care of yourself by eating regularly, getting enough sleep, exercising (even 10 minutes per day), and taking time doing things you like that will distract you, like watching a movie, listing to music, or reading. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or resting in the dark may also be calming.
“I recommend self-soothing through the five senses — which are the sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Think of what things you find comfort in that use your senses. For example with sense of touch, maybe a shower is comforting, or holding your pet,” Dr. Zweifel said. “Positive self-talk is another great tool. Support yourself by saying ‘I am capable and strong and can get through this,’ or ‘I can learn from this situation and grow as a person.’”
Children may be dealing with their own anxieties as well. Even though schools are closed, they may still be contacted via phone, or through the district’s website for guidance on helping the youngsters grapple with current events.
Dr. Zweifel said that while we are all being told to limit our social activities that does not mean we have to be isolated. Talking with people in your household, friends and family on the phone, by email or text, or through social media can keep you feeling connected.
Those who feel they need medical assistance call their primary care provider, she said. Assistance is also available by calling Reachout at 315-265-2422, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.
St. Lawrence Health System Director of Wellness and Sustainability Laura Cordts said COVID-19 is making us all a bit uneasy.
“Feeling anxious about stressful events and situations is totally ‘normal.’ To some extent, everyone feels anxious when things feel unpredictable or not under our own control,” she said. “It’s important to focus on the facts, but not be obsessive. Overloading on news, websites, and social media posts about COVID-19 probably isn’t going to help. Limit the amount of time you spend each day reading and searching for information.”
Ms. Cordts suggested the Center for Disease Control (CDC.gov), and New York State Department of Health (health.ny.gov) are excellent origins for factual news. St. Lawrence Health System has also established an on-line page for current COVID-19 information on its website at https://www.stlawrencehealthsystem.org/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.