These are trying times for all of us. Almost everyone has experienced fear, anxiety and depression at one point these past few weeks. Our lives look nothing like they did just two short weeks ago. Self-quarantines, empty store shelves, long lines at stores even before they open, people fighting over toilet paper, hoarding, the closing of restaurants, bars, gyms and churches only exacerbate these feelings. Some have become negative and assign blame wherever they can. Just seeing this list was anxiety producing.
On the flip-side, it also has been heart-warming to read on social media of the good that people are doing to counterbalance the negativity and unsettling times. Younger people are shopping for seniors who are of the highest risk population. Others have offered to run errands and are sharing limited items with friends and family. People have stepped up to help our restaurants by ordering carry-out and buying gift cards. Making cards for those in nursing homes has given hope and a sense of belonging to those residents.
So, how do we get through this together? With a positive mindset. I know, easier said than done, right? Here are a few tips:
- Limit your media consumption. Choose a couple of times per day to catch up on the news. If you’re feeling particularly daring, consider “unplugging” for stretches of time. Leave your phone in another room and step away.
- Be present. Rather than worrying about “what if,” challenge yourself to practice mindfulness. Use a meditation app like Calm, Headspace, and Stop, Breathe and Think. Try deep breathing and body relaxation exercises found on youtube.com.
- Get outdoors. Walk the dog. Go for a hike, bike ride or run. Sitting outdoors also is a great way to connect your body to the outside world. This helps us physically and mentally while boosting our immune system.
- Maintain a normal schedule. To the best of your ability, do what you would normally do. Get up, shower, get dressed, have your coffee and read The Pueblo Chieftain and Pueblo West View.
- Laugh. Humor overcomes anxiety. Watch a comedy show or listen to a comedian you enjoy.
- Educate yourself. Go to a trusted resource to get the facts, not the hype. Information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is a good one. (cdc.gov)
- Know yourself. If you struggle with pre-existing anxiety, depression, substance abuse or other mental health conditions, you may find that your symptoms increase. If you already have a plan to keep your symptoms at bay, double down. Connect to your mental health provider and reach out to trusted friends and family.
Another good source of support is the Pueblo Pro Bono Wellness Program. It is free to people who may be struggling at this uncertain time. Please note that due to social distancing, we are only available to talk on the phone.
Together, we will get through this unsettling time. We, as a united country, always has.
Columnist note: Thank you to Kathryn Miller, Manager of the Mental Wellness Program of Spark The Change Colorado, for her helpful tips.
Betty Nufer is program manager for Spark The Change Colorado and is a life-long resident of Pueblo. To learn more about free mental health services and programs please call 719-821-2982 or email bnufer@sparkthechangecolorado.