During this time of physical distancing and uncertainty, many older adults and caregivers feel isolated, lonely, restless, and withdrawn. People with behavioral conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and previous drug addiction disorders are at particularly high risk for severe anxiety, substance use relapse, and thoughts of suicide.
It is extremely important that you stay in contact with your counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist if you already have mental health problems condition or substance use disorder. Telemedicine, that is, video or phone chat, is the safest way to have an appointment right now. The good news is that with Medicare, healthcare providers can reduce or waive cost sharing for telemedicine visits. (Ask your provider for details).
Relieving stress and anxiety is now vitally important. What follows are seven tips that we can all use as we navigate these uncertain times:
Stay informed and take practical steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. Get the data from trusted sources like the CDC, the World Health Organization, your local health department, and the NCOA. Don’t get caught up in the news, as this will only make any distress you may be feeling at the moment worse.
Do healthy activities: Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night; eat a healthy, well-balanced diet; do not smoke; drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day or none at all, as directed by your doctor; and finally, exercise your body and mind. Meditation, walks, gardening, and exercise routines at home are good for your mental health.
Make sure you have at least a month’s supply of the prescription and over-the-counter drugs you need to manage your mental health and other conditions. Take all of your medications as directed by your healthcare providers. If you need help paying for your prescription drugs, visit profitseeker.org.
Stick to your regular routines as much as possible. You may need to create a new routine to accommodate working at home, exercising indoors, caring for grandchildren, cleaning, and other daily activities. Integrate enjoyable old and new hobbies into your daily routine.
Stay connected with your family, friends, and other support networks (faith, hobbies, etc.). Having someone to talk to about your needs and feelings is vital to mental health disorders. Commit to contacting at least one person per day to maintain an ongoing social connection via phone, or email, video conferencing, and social media, if you have Internet access. Consider asking someone to be your support partner for daily check-ups. If you are a member of a support group, stay connected over the phone or through a video platform like Zoom. Many groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, are moving the meetings to digital platforms.
Try as much as possible to be positive and enjoy the simple things in life. Many people across the country are helping their neighbors and communities during this crisis. After this pandemic is over, hopefully we will be stronger, kinder, and more connected to each other.
Help others, when it is safe to do so, by supporting peers and neighbors, as well as caring for the children of medical personnel who must be in hospitals fighting COVID-19. Helping others gives us a sense of purpose and control in these uncertain times.