Mar 25, 2020 6:53 PM

MHS: Tips to cope with anxiety, isolation during pandemic

Posted Mar 25, 2020 6:53 PM
<b>Jandi Wells. </b>Photo courtesy MHS
Jandi Wells. Photo courtesy MHS

ABILENE – Americans of all ages are experiencing increased social isolation and loneliness in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the National Institute on Aging, nearly 14 million older adults in the U.S. live alone and are especially vulnerable during this time. Their research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. 

Memorial Health System Senior Life Solutions is encouraging people to engage in meaningful, productive activities to help boost mood and maintain their overall emotional health and well-being.

Jandi Wells, program director of Senior Life Solutions, said “It is important to find ways to connect and engage in activities to help mitigate symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time.  We put together these quick tips to share with our communities and hope they will encourage self-care and support.”

Quick Tips for Older Adults Experiencing Social Isolation

1.    Find or keep a sense of purpose.  Take up a hobby such as growing an herb garden, crossword puzzles, knitting, or other activities. 

2.    Age-appropriate workouts can help you not only stay in physical shape but in mental shape as well.  Gentle exercises such as walking are suggested.  It is always recommended to consult a healthcare professional or primary care physician first.

3.    Manage medication.  Do you have enough to last you for the next 30-60 days?  If you need help managing medications, contact your doctor or a loved one who can help you.

4.    Keep a routine that includes consistent sleep/wake cycles.  Incorporate talking to family or friends in that routine.  Whether it be writing them a letter or calling them on the phone.

Quick Tips for Families

1.    Stay active, and do it together!  Walk the family dog, take a bike ride, or a walk together. 

2.    If your church has temporarily closed, check-in with them to see if they are offering virtual services that your family can attend together from home.

3.    If you have kids home from school, make a video (on your smartphone!) and send it to a loved one who lives far away.  A fun interactive way to simply say, hello.

Quick Tips for Caregivers

1.    Take five to refuel.  Make a list of things that help you relax and take 2 to 3 breaks throughout the day.

2.    Call or write a friend who can lend a sympathetic ear, make you laugh, and remind you that you are not alone.

3.    Pursue other interests.  Hobbies, sports, crafts, and other pursuits are not frivolous.  They help you clear your mind of worry – if only briefly.

How to Care for Yourself

1.    Nourish your body.  Ensure you are eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water.  If produce is hard to come by right now, check to see if local farmer’s markets are delivering.

2.    Take a break from the news.  Although it is important to stay updated, it is recommended to take at least a 15-minute break.

3.    Stay connected to your loved ones or a mentor using your phone, or applications like Facetime or Skype to speak to them virtually.

Wells added, “Think of self-care like putting on an oxygen mask on an airplane.  The flight attendant always instructs travelers to put on their own mask before securing others.  You must take care of yourself right now to continue caring for and supporting those around you.” 

If you or a loved one is in need, contact the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline (800) 985-5990 that provides 24/7, 365-day-a- year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.  Additionally, older adults and adults living with disabilities can contact the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour toll-free Friendship Line, an accredited crisis line at 800-971-0016.  If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911. 

Continue Reading Salina Post
Mar 25, 2020 6:53 PM
Look for ways to help children cope during crisis, experts say

MANHATTAN – Children and adults experience and react differently in times of crisis.

“We sometimes only think of disasters as weather-related events, but we know that anything that disrupts daily life and community well-being on a large scale is a disaster,” said Bradford Wiles, associate professor and extension specialist with Kansas State University’s College of Health and Human Services. “Thinking about and being compassionate in how we all feel and process our emotions is crucial to our own, our families’, and our communities’ resilience in the face of the current pandemic.” 

A K-State publication, written by Wiles and associate professor and extension specialist Elizabeth Kiss, includes information that can help communities recognize the negative effects that tough times have on the mental well-being of children.

The publication, titled Disasters: Children’s Responses and Helping Them Recover, is available online from the K-State Research and Extension bookstore.

Wiles and Kiss outline suggested ways parents can help children cope during hard times:

  1. Reassure the child that you are still together and that you will be there to help as long as you can.
  2. Return to pre-disaster routines to the extent possible, including bedtime, bath time, meal time and waking up times.
  3. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. It can be difficult to take care of a child if you are not feeling well.
  4. Talk with your child about your feelings.
  5. Encourage children to draw, write or tell stories about their experiences. Talking about how the disaster or tough time has changed them can be beneficial.

The publication also includes signs to look for in children and how to emerge in a positive direction from times of crisis.

K-State Research and Extension has compiled numerous publications and other information to help people take care of themselves and others during times of crisis. See the complete list of resources online.

Local K-State Research and Extension agents are still on the job during this time of closures and confinement. They, too, are practicing social distancing. Email is the best way to reach them, but call forwarding and voicemail allow for closed local offices to be reached by phone as well (some responses could be delayed). To find out how to reach your local agents, visit the K-State Research and Extension county and district directory.

Signs of depression

Signs of depression in early childhood: tantrums, physical complaints, brief periods of sadness, listlessness or hyperactivity, lack of interest in activities, withdrawal.

Signs of depression in middle childhood: new phobias, hyperactivity, conduct disorders (lying or stealing), refusal to leave parents, periods of sadness, vague anxiety or agitation, suicidal thoughts.

Signs of depression in adolescents: changes in appearance, withdrawal, fatigue, eating problems, substance abuse, risk-taking, sudden change in peer group, loss of interest, sleep problems, hostility, suicidal thoughts.

-- Source: Disasters: Children’s Responses and Helping Them Recover