By CRISTINA JANNEY
The uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus is causing much anxiety among Americans.
Although no confirmed cases have been reported in High Plains Mental Health's northwest Kansas coverage area, Kaley Conner, HPMH marketing coordinator, on Wednesday recommended ways people can take care of their mental health during the crisis.
"We know this is an unprecedented time for many of us in our lifetime. We have never gone through anything quite like this," Conner said. "People are feeling some anxiety because that is very much out of our control."
Tips on staying calm during the crisis
Limit your intake of news on the virus; seek reliable sources.
"Obviously it is important to be informed and to know what is going on," Conner said. "It is important to know what precautions you should to be taking for your family, but it is also important to make sure you are getting that information from reliable sources."
Constant media exposure might not be helpful.
"Sometimes it is best to get the information you need for the day, but then kind of take a break and distance yourself from the upsetting stories and upsetting images," Conner said.
Take care of your body
This should include:
- Eating well
- Getting seven to nine hours of sleep
- Avoiding too much alcohol or caffeine
- Take time to relax — enjoy a hobby, read a book, make a craft, watch a movie, listen to music, meditate, pray, practice deep breathing.
- Get light exercise if possible
- Get fresh air and sunlight if possible
"Remind yourself that the strong feelings are going to fade," Conner said.
Keeping as much of a normal routine as possible might be helpful to keep your mind off everything that is happening in the greater world, she said.
Now could be a good time to spend time with your family, Conner suggested.
"That could be one positive that comes out of this is — that chance to have that quality time with your family," she said.
Do your best to maintain a sense of hope
"Remind yourself that this is temporary," she said. "It is important through all of this to give yourself time to process all of your emotions."
Schools closing for the rest of the year is promoting strong emotions among, teachers, parents and students, she said.
Try talking about those emotions with someone you trust, Conner said.
Try to maintain healthy relationships
People may be in isolation by choice or under quarantine, but you can still reach out to them via phone, text, online chat, social media or video chat or conferencing.
"Practice social distancing and best practices, but don't completely isolate yourself to the point you are not communicating with other people," she said.
This may especially be important if you have a mental health diagnosis or you know someone who does. Conner said these vulnerable individuals may need more support during this stressful time.
"I think now more than ever it is going to be important for our community to take care of each other as best we can. If you know someone who is elderly or immune compromised, someone who has a known history of a mental illness, now is an excellent time to check on those folks," Conner said.
"Send them an email. Send them a message. Give them a call and check in on them. ... "That is one thing I think we do pretty well in northwest Kansas is taking care of each other. I know things are pretty scary right now and we need to follow those best practices and try to keep ourselves safe. We also need to keep taking care of each other."
High Plains Mental Health announced it was moving most face-to-face services to telephone or video conferencing. This applies to clinical services, most medical services and case management/support services.
SEE RELATED STORY: High Plains Mental Health moving services online, phone
However, High Plains reassured the public in a news release services will still be available.
Sign and symptoms of anxiety, stress
- Energy or activity levels increase or decrease
- More irritable
- Trouble relaxing or sleeping
- Frequent crying
- Excessive worry
- Desire to be alone
- Difficulty listening or communicating
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Being easily startled
- Physical symptoms, including stomach aches, digestive problems, headaches, sweating, tremors or muscle twitches
If you have unexplained physical symptoms, please contact your medical provider
Help via phone, app or internet
"We want to encourage people that it is OK to reach out for help," Conner said. "This is a really difficult time, and it is important to take care of your brain health as well as your physical health."
If you are in crisis and need to speak to someone right away, please call High Plains' 24/7 crisis hotline: 1-800-432-0333. Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be accessed by calling 1-800-273-8255 or texting MHFA to 741741.
In addition, High Plains offers frees, enhanced access to 7 Cups of Tea, an online emotional wellness tool. This can be accessed at https://www.7cups.com/p/highplains/, pass code is highplains for new members.
Conner also recommended several other apps for people who may be struggling with anxiety.
calm.com (Help with sleep)
Sanvello (Help with anxiety stress and depression)
woebot (Talk online to reduce)
RELATED STORY: Mental Health First Aid: Anxiety disorders not only a matter of mind