April 1: COVID-19: How to Take Care of Ourselves & Others
Paul G. Simeone, Ph.D. – VP/Medical Director of Behavioral Health
I don’t know about you, but I can hardly remember what life was like before the Coronavirus made its unwelcome arrival. Which is odd, because I usually have a more continuous sense of the present than I do now.
These are strange and stressful times, and I don’t really feel like myself. Something has changed in our world, things have fractured, and the center of our lives is not holding in the ways that we are used to counting on. It’s easy now to feel disoriented, afraid, and uncertain.
Over the past few days, many people have asked me for advice as to how best to handle our current pandemic. While I don’t have all of the answers, here are some tips that I hope you will find helpful.
Perspective is the first casualty of any catastrophic experience, so adopt a “this, too, shall pass” attitude. Bad experiences, even the worst, come to an end. It’s vital that we remember previous challenging experiences that also ended.
Routines, long-established patterns of feeling, thinking, and behavior, are vital to our well-being, right now, ours have been upended. Work to create new routines for yourself and your family. Use this crisis as an opportunity to make some positive changes in your life. It’s easier than you think, and taking charge of your life will help you feel empowered.
Stay connected to friends, family, and neighbors
We all need one another and must stick together during this difficult time. Focus on being there for people, ask what you can do to help others, and let people take care of you, too. Above all, be kind, compassionate, and loving, smiling where you can and laughing contagiously with others. Humor is healing!
Stay connected to yourself
Monitor your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors on an ongoing basis, paying close attention to what your mind, body, and spirit are telling you. This is especially important if you have underlying mental health or substance use conditions, as these can worsen under stress. Maintain all current treatment regimens and keep in contact with your healthcare providers.
It’s all about safety, security, and comfort
Make sure you have what you need to weather the storm as comfortably as possible – and don’t feel guilty or ashamed for making your needs known. Self-care, particularly when we are isolated or in quarantine, is vital to your well-being.
Remain well-informed and ask questions
But do not allow yourself to get overwhelmed by the dizzying amounts of information coming at you. Limit your exposure to the news and pay attention only to credible sources of information, such as Lee Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization.
Let’s all take care of our kids and grandkids!
This very important mandate comes last on this list because we adults must take care of ourselves in order to take good care of our children or grandchildren. It’s like the recommendation to put on our own oxygen masks on an airplane before we fit our children.
Once we’ve settled ourselves down, we need to share what we’ve learned with our kids: pay attention to what they’re thinking, feeling and doing, ask questions, listen carefully and patiently, encourage positive activities and reassure them that their communities will take care of them until the crisis abates.
This, too, shall pass!
Paul Simeone, Ph.D., is vice president of Mental and Behavioral Health at Lee Health. Simeone has more than 30 years of experience in mental and behavioral health as an educator, administrator, and practicing clinical psychologist. Simeone has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and master’s degree in school psychology from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, and a master’s degree in psychology from Mount Holyoke College near Springfield, Mass.