A Time to Speak — Maintaining mental and physical health

Martine Siegel

The COVID-19 outbreak has upended all our lives is so many different ways. Everyone has been affected, and depending on life circumstances, some more negatively than others. The impact of the pandemic can cause a prolonged traumatic experience and affect our mental health in a negative way.

Parents are expected to be teachers and may be expected to work as well. Many have lost employment and are fearful of the instability of their finances. Some may worry about how they will have enough to eat. Children may be unable to visit parents in care facilities and hospitals.

Life as we knew it has changed. Accompanying that change are feelings of fear over the loss of security and safety. Our family, our friends and our faith communities have been off limits to help keep this virus at bay. While intellectually we understand that the reason is to keep us and those we love safe, emotionally it can take a toll. For those without access to technology it can be even more overwhelming.

There are may things we can do to stay healthy until our lives return to normal. It is important to remember just how much our mental and physical health impact each other, especially in times of stress. Here are some reminders to help you stay healthy.

  • Try to get enough sleep and keep your routine as close to what was normal as possible. In these situations it’s tempting to sleep late or sleep throughout the day. Try your best to avoid too much sleep, which can make you groggy, unfocused and irritable. Get up at your normal time, shower, dress and get ready for the day.
  • Exercise! It can have an immediate impact on your mental health in a positive way. A walk outside will not only give you the benefit of movement but also sunshine and fresh air.
  • Eat sensibly throughout this ordeal and try your best to stay on a routine. Use this time to experiment with cooking or teaching children to help with meal preparation. Keep alcohol intake to a minimum.
  • Try to focus on positive distractions by watching TV or movies that make you laugh. Learn a new board game, play cards or read an uplifting book. Try to focus on “now” if your mind wanders to the fears you may have for the future.
  • Remind yourself often that this is temporary and that we will recover.
  • Avoid watching too much news that can cause people to feel overwhelmed with fear and misery.
  • Use the technology we are so blessed to have. Face Time your family, call, text and check in with those you love and know are lonely. Send photos of everyday events to stay connected.
  • If you have the opportunity, work in your yard. If you have children at home use this opportunity to help them learn a new skill like planting potatoes.
  • Keep an eye on those you love. If you notice a change in behavior in the elderly or the young don’t ignore it. Explore what they are thinking about and, if you are worried, seek professional advice.
  • Keep bedtime routines as normal as possible. This gives everyone a sense of normalcy and prepares the body for a good night’s sleep.
  • Use this time as an opportunity to get involved in outreach to places in need. Many opportunities involve phone calls and things you can do from home.
  • Above all we have prayer. Spend time as a family in prayer during this Lenten season even if it is over your phone.

If you are worried about someone, do not hesitate to call us at 636-1044. You are not alone. We are in this together and we will get through this together with God’s love and grace and the incredible care and concern that we all share with each other.

Martine Siegel, RN, MSN, is director of Counseling Services and Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville and Psychiatric Triage Coordinator/Emergency Room at Norton Hospital Downtown.

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