GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- We are creatures of habit. We also like to be in control of our lives. The coronavirus has upset both of these.
I’ve used the analogy that we’re all in the game of life playing by the rules we’ve developed and the world has created. And suddenly, unexpectedly, our game board was flipped upside down and all the game pieces, cards and rules are in disarray.
We’re trying to piece our game back together but we have our hands tied behind our backs… and the rules keep changing. And so how we operate with habits and the ways we control our lives are not returning to normal and it’s created chaos internally for us. It’s externally chaotic but it’s also internally disruptive.
So this internal disruption leads to mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Most of us can admit we’ve had those days where we don’t want to get out of bed. We want to wake up from what feels like a bad dream.
Being under this ‘shelter in place’ order can make us feel suppressed. We can’t really go anywhere. We can’t see friends and family. We’re missing out on important events that have been canceled. It takes a toll on our spirit and wellbeing. It’s heavy stuff. There’s so much uncertainty and we are wired to function best with stability and certainty.
What are things that people should be doing for their mental health?
This is a grieving process. We’ve had to let go of a lot. Some people have lost loved ones during this and that’s as tragic as it gets. Most of us
We’ve lost money. Businesses. Our jobs have been lost—whether temporarily or not. We’ve lost out on critical moments—weddings, graduations, vacations. We’ve all had to grieve the loss of something. It’s important to grieve that loss.
But it’s important to not stay there. It’s important to reframe our mindset to be one of optimism instead of pessimism. Instead of being stuck at home we can reframe it we’re safe at home.
Be grateful. Write out at the end of each day the things that you are grateful for. Of course, we’re grateful we’re healthy including our friends and family. But what about the little things: Warmer weather–spring is upon us. An opportunity to get that to-do item checked off our list. A nap that we wouldn’t normally take. There are thousands of things we can be grateful for each day.
Walk. Go outside and get fresh air and take a 30-minute walk each day. It’s good for all the calories you’re not burning and the overeating you’re likely doing. Walking clears the mind, builds endorphins for good mental health and keeps your body active.
Stay connected. I can’t stress this enough. It’s important to stay connected with friends and family. Call people, zoom them or visit outside with your neighbors keeping the road as your safe distance divider. Talk to one new person each day.
And most importantly, pray or meditate. Push out the negative messages and replace it with the quiet peace that comes with mindfulness practices like prayer or meditation. There is a tremendous amount of research that shows the importance of praying and meditating during periods of stress, anxiety, and tragedy.
What is AARP doing to help older adults?
AARP continues to be a trusted source of information for older adults. We have an AARP website dedicated to coronavirus information – aarp.org/coronavirus—and a Michigan AARP page dedicated to state resources for small businesses, if you need food assistance, healthcare needs and want to stay up to date on the governor’s recommendations — https://states.aarp.org/michigan/health-food-help-coronavirus-covid-19-michigan
We launched our Community Connections page to connect people with resources and our Friendly Voice initiative so if people need someone to talk to they can. We have trained staff and volunteers who will take calls from isolated older adults. If you or someone you know needs a friendly call, we’re here to help. The Friendly Voice Virtual Call Center is available to individuals who want human interaction through a warm conversation. People can request a friendly chat by calling 888-281-0145 or visiting the AARP Community Connections website at aarpcommunityconnections.org
And finally, our weekly Coronavirus Q & A takes place each Thursday at 1pm. It’s just a phone call. You don’t need internet access and it’s your opportunity to ask questions of national experts.
This week the topic is Coping and Maintaining Your Well-Being
Experts at this week’s live Q&A event will address your questions related to protecting yourself and loved ones from the virus, staying healthy and reducing social isolation. They will also respond to rising concerns about how stress, uncertainty, fear, and lack of control are negatively affecting people and contributing to depression.
You can participate by calling toll-free 1-855-274-9507, or listen to the live audio stream here starting at 1 pm.