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Dear Readers: Previously, I wrote about seeking mental health support and services for adults, children, and families who may be experiencing significant anxiety, depression, fear, and even anger during these very difficult times as a consequence of the Pandemic with COVID-19. 

In this article I would like to summarize some helpful suggestions made in the Internet and incorporate additional ones that come from my background as a psychologist: 

 

 

a.     Having a routine is very important for all people in the family. Establishing a routine for children who are still attending school online is a given. However, adding some fun activities to the routine as well as time for creative family activities such as art projects, music, dancing as a family (there are a lot of sources in the Internet that provide that, but this is actually considered “screen time”), writing together, doing exercises in the middle of the living room together, and cooking together. Children of all ages like to have a feeling that they have some control of what is going on and they also like to be helpful. Thus, engaging children in making the “fun schedule”, and also for participating in the daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and organizing around the house helps the youngsters feel that they are contributing to the family. This is actually a unique opportunity to help children develop the above responsibilities as in “normal” times parents may not want to delegate any chores or things for children to do in the household. Having a different routine for the weekend is also important to keep a sense of the “days of the week”. 

b.     Continuing on the topic of routine: This is also important for adults. It is of most importance for all people to have an exercise routine, no matter what that is. I heard of a story of a person who ran a full Marathon inside his apartment in New York. Let his example be a good one to follow for those of us who actually have more space than a studio apartment. Some people are actually able to experience the outdoors (outside of their house) for a bit, and some people cannot even go out for too long and for a longer distance than 100 meters from their apartment or house. However, no matter what situation you may find yourself in, remember that we are all staying at home because we are all healthy. Let us celebrate being healthy every single day. 

c.     Elderly: Unfortunately, many of the elderly people are not having direct access to their families, not anyone. How to work with that? How about your elderly relatives that cannot have access to a smart phone, and even if they do, it is hard for them to hear and/or listen to you and have a conversation? If anyone can help a parent or grandparent have a conference call on video with a bigger screen and better quality audio (remember, many people wear hearing aids), it is good to establish a routine of calling the person at least once a day to have a conversation without having to hold a phone. Also, it may be good to read the same books and to discuss them, or to start a new chore/activity (I learned knitting from my 87-year old mother recently) together and to do that activity on video. This is not an easy task to accomplish but no matter what, having a routine phone call is helpful. In addition, the elderly people who live alone may need help in ordering groceries and in completing some daily tasks. It is important to remember that human resources and help in these times is really hard to obtain and the more someone is exposed to, the more likely for that person to become sick with the COVID-19. 

d.     News, television, computer news, and even emails and conversations. Make sure you have an established time to listen to the news, not just on television, but even while you are working with a computer, or on the phone. It is very difficult to concentrate and to focus on anything else when we hear about number of cases increasing, and also number of deaths in the various cities, countries, and the whole world. So, it is important to be updated and to know the news, including the actions of each local government officials of what we all need to do in order to help contain the Endemic. So, why not listen and watch the news twice a day (the beginning and end of the day)? Also, be aware that your reactions to the news and to the Endemic situation directly affects the children in your household. Your anxiety may create more anxiety in your children who already noticed that their routine has changed and that there is something bad going on in their surroundings and world. 

e.     Engage in positive activities and provide experiences that induce hope and talk to your family about the positive experiences you may have due to the imposed situation of staying home with family, or even alone (and keeping in touch with family via the Internet). I actually asked some people how they are “Making lemonade out of lemons” and I received some answers such as the following: “we are eating healthier food at home and spending time together as a family”, “we are saving money by not eating out”, “ I started playing the flute again”, “I read 4 books that I had been wanting to read and never had time to start”, “I am saving gas and the environment by not driving as much”, “I am healthy and alive, and I never had time to stop and to think what is important to me before”, “ I am exercising every day”, “I am spending time talking to my grandmother every day, something I never took time to do before and I am learning a lot from her”. And the list goes on and on. 

f.      Find people you can share your concerns with (such as friends, or if necessary, a professional), and other friends or acquaintances that you share other experiences in common, such as book club, skills, opinions. Note, however, that if you would like and have the time, you could spend hours and hours taking seminars, classes, presentations. However, it is important to stop and to value being in the “now”: To breath, to notice the various times of the day, to look for the sun, for the moon, and to appreciate all that you have in front of you. For instance, when you eat a meal that you prepared or that you ordered, think of how many people worked through so many steps so that the food could make it to your house, to your table? (This was suggested by Rabbi Ami Chai Lu Levy during a Zoom service this week). He used the example of a celery that was a seed, needed someone to care for the plant to grow, then someone picked it up, packed it, and it was re-packed it and then it made it to the supermarket, and then delivered to you. 

g.     Find time to be grateful to all the people who are risking their lives such as doctors, fire fighters, and police force. Every day people go to their windows or balconies in the city of New York and say “thank you” to the people who are helping with the sick people and the people who need help. 

 

h.     Looking for support from specific groups is important. For instance, Weight Watchers has developed several digital/online meetings to help their members continue working with their program of taking control of their eating habits. They are offering these services because the organization knows that people who have tendencies to eat as a way to manage anxiety will eat more often and will binge as a way to deal with their fears and uncertainties. 

 

i.      In addition to looking for emotional support from support groups and from professionals, it is also a good idea to look for support from colleagues (professionals from your area or co-workers). In addition, since there are tremendous financial loss and people will be facing an economic trauma, it is good to make plans, and to find out if there is any help that either the government is providing or another institution. Many people are being forgiven for their rents (either residential or commercial) for one or two months, and I command the landlords or landladies for that gesture. Many private consultants and service providers are being paid even though they cannot provide services.  

 

j.      Finally, for people who enjoy writing, I have recommended some adults to write diaries about their feelings and to describe their experiences during this very testing times. I have recommended that they write not just about their stress and struggles, but also about their experiences of resilience, tolerance, and flexibility. I am sure that most of you are wondering if you would ever be able to be at home, isolated, or with family for so many weeks without going to work, and to school. Also, families can write a diary together, creating a memory of their activities and experiences at home. They can take pictures of their drawings, games, cooking, and share with others in the family. For instance, in my family, I have been sending drawings for the children of two different continents to draw and color and they will share with each other afterwards. Also there could be great cooks who find themselves making gourmet food and having a new hobby that the whole family benefits from.

 

 

I hope that this article is helpful to all of you in summarizing suggestions for daily life of families, and for all kinds of people of all ages and backgrounds. As a psychologist, I also think that it is important to remind you that although we are all still in the mode of “survival” and under the “shock of the changes we have had to endure over the last many weeks”, it is important to look for mental health services if you find yourself experiences new symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger, or if you have increased any unhealthy habits such as drinking, smoking, using other drugs, or eating. 

 

Please, if you have any questions or comments, you can email me at vera@verajoffe.com or call my office at 954-4156157. I am providing services via Tele Health and because I understand that people may not have the privacy of receiving psychological services during the day (because they may have their children at home), I can accommodate and offer services during the evening hours as well. 

 

 

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