You remember the Tom Hanks movie where he is stranded on a Pacific Island and how he learns to adapt. Unfortunately, Hollywood does not offer a role model for us, because we are not suggesting you resort to a diet of raw fish or having heartfelt conversations with your volleyball. But there is some good advice available to us all to help us lean into this situation and get through it. It comes from our own government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Let me give you the short version:
- Minimize News Exposure – I find this one particularly hard to follow, but think of it as sunshine. It can be illuminating, but over-exposure can cause burning. And since we don’t have “news screen” as we have sun screen, limit your exposure to 30 minutes or so.
- Stay Informed – This may seem to contradict the first suggestion, but getting the facts is important for understanding how this pandemic is affecting everyone, how it can be contained and the progress we are making toward containing it. It’s a fire presently out of control unless we contain it. This means to not get glued to opinion media – see number one. Opinion “newscasters” are to the pandemic what gasoline is to a fire.
- Sitting is the New Smoking – Take regular breaks from whatever it is that is occupying your time. If you are working from home, take periodic walks around the block, make a call to a friend, anything to put what occupies you on pause. Try to fill your pause with something good for you: walking, meditating, praying, whatever renews you.
- Reach Out – I mentioned in an earlier post how my family gets together each Sunday on ZOOM. Helping them know how you’re feeling is good for them, and it is equally gratifying for you to know they are holding up as well. I participate in a phone tree to check up on people we would normally see, but are unable to see now. With ZOOM dinners we actually are making better friends of existing acquaintances and new acquaintances on top of that. We are a social species, so don’t cut yourself off.
- Become Stronger – How many times have commitments or work gotten in the way of doing what we should to sustain ourselves? Getting enough sleep has no excuses anymore. There are no excuses to not take time for long walks or working out. For this latter, you may have to get creative, but pushup-ups and sit-ups need no equipment…or leg lifts, etc.
- Ask for Help – If all of the above still leave you feeling depressed, mentally fatigued or just out of sorts for a reason you cannot quite put your finger on, reach out. The SAMHSA that I referenced in my introduction has a help line, so don’t be afraid to ask: 1-800-985-5990.
We at CCM want you all to remain safe and follow the rules so that you all will get through this health crisis. It has been only 37 days so far. Be safe and be healthy.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.