The Counseling Department would like to provide you with some resources to cope with the many feelings we are experiencing as we navigate the current health crisis. This section of our website will be updated weekly.
Coping with COVID-19's Impact
Dealing with COVID-19 is like running a marathon rather than a sprint. When framed that way, it makes sense to use the coping strategies of a long-distance runner: pace yourself; remember that, even if you can’t see the finish line, trust it is there; adjust your plan if necessary; focus on what we can control; its ok to slow down and walk – but keep going; drink your water, and express gratitude to your cheer team that help along the way.
If you or anyone you know needs support during this time, the Mental Health Association in NJ run a variety of online support groups. Please click this link for more information: Remote Support Groups.
Mental Health Resources: Apps & Books
This week, our mental health tips will focus on accessing resources. In this age of technology, quality mental health resources are easily available via apps on our phones. A variety of apps exist, with some fantastic ones being free. These apps can support and assist with topics such as mindfulness, depression, anxiety and stress relief. View The 7 Best Mental Health Apps of 2020 from the website verywellmind (a fantastic resource as well!) describes some top apps in detail. Read this article from the same website that lists The 10 Best Mental Health Books. My personal favorite is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, written by the therapist Lori Gottlieb. It is funny, touching and quite insightful about the difficulties, but ultimate benefits, of sticking with therapy.
Another important, local resource is The Mental Health Association
in New Jersey. This organization offers free virtual groups that provide emotional support during COVID-19
Normally we think of summertime as the season to let go a bit, live easy and relax. Although this summer will be different in significant ways, it is still a great time to acknowledge the need to unwind and take care of ourselves.
Self-care is becoming a popular topic in the media – for good reason. As parents, we can easily get caught up in the daily grind and de-prioritize our own needs. True self-care is an intentional decision to not only maintain our own health and wellness, but to make mindful changes in recurring thoughts and behaviors that have a negative impact on our welfare.
Aditi Kulkarni, a therapist, reminds us that some myths about self-care exist: self-care is an indulgence, it is selfish, it is a one-time occurrence, and it is time-consuming. Believing these myths present an obstacle to creating a sustainable health care plan. Ms. Kulkarni suggests starting small, experimenting and creating an intentional practice when starting a self-care plan. Read her blog for a more in-depth discussion and about self-care and this article for some tips about self-care activities one can do at their desk while working.
This week, our tips will focus on the coping with the unique stress of being a parent during Covid-19. The American Psychological Association conducted a survey at the end May and found while 69% of parents were looking forward to the school year being over, 60% said they were struggling to keep their children busy, and 60% said they “have no idea how they are going to keep their child occupied all summer.”
COVID-19 seems to present answers and questions simultaneously: School will open, but what will it look like? Pools and playgrounds will be open, but how does one social distance in a pool? The school year is over, but now what do we do to keep busy?
Staying grounded in the present moment is the key to managing unknowns, questions and an ever-changing new normal. Please view this guided mindfulness meditation
to use as a tool at home to ease stress and tension.
Structure continues to be crucial, but summertime structure allows for flexibility, rest and relaxation. Nina Essel, a therapist and parent coach, suggests breaking the day into three categories: Nonnegotiables (i.e. shower and brush teeth each day); things you want to see happen (i.e. spend at least an hour a day outside); and things you would like to see happen (i.e. kids unload the dishwasher each day). Having your child involved in the process of identifying the activities is helpful and adds to the likelihood that the activity list will be more successful.
Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. We are still dealing with the many unknowns and feelings about finding our “new normal” during COVID-19. Additionally, many of us watched the news over the past week and felt a range of big emotions. Maintaining our resilience in the face of what sometimes feels like unrelenting stress is an important way to keep ourselves healthy. Here are 20 Ways To Build Resilience At Home.
One way to recharge is to be mindful about our perspective. When thinking about the pandemic and the effects of staying at home, our perspective guides our response. Staying mindful helps us remain aware of our perspective, thoughts and responses. In this article, 4 Steps to More Inner Peace During a Pandemic, John J. Murphy from Mindful Leader offers 4 steps to improving our ability to respond to stressful situations: Let Be, Let Go, Let See and Let Flow.
Now that we are knee-deep in the pandemic and remote learning, we are getting used to experiencing a range of emotional reactions and levels of stress. However, some of us may be nearing burnout. Here is a great article, How To Avoid Burnout in a Pandemic, which discusses some strategies to manage burnout for adults and children.
It is important to give ourselves permission to experience whatever it is we are feeling. Elisha, Goldstein, Ph.D. talks about “grief bombs.” Goldstein says, “You may not even recognize them at first…You're feeling okay for a few days, and then all of sudden you're having an especially hard day - a bout of anxiety hits or it feels like nothing's going right. You may find yourself weepy, overwhelmed, irritable, anxious or unable to focus.” In remote counseling, students have described feeling this way and it is important as adults we understand this to be true for us as well.
When we realize what it is we are feeling (burnout, grief, anxiety…), we can take steps to provide ourselves with extra care, love and opportunities to refill our emotional cups.
Mental Health Tips
Here is a fantastic article from Greater Good Magazine, Helping Handle the Loss of Proms and Graduations. It gives us some helpful steps and strategies about managing emotions. The article’s title is focused on teens, but the content easily applies to all ages – elementary students through adults.
Ultimately, much of what we are all feeling is loss and grief. Loss of rituals, traditions, the end result of hard work (performances, showcases, sports seasons, scouting trips and events, graduation), routines, and closure of one stage and a fresh beginning to a new one. It will be important to help our children mourn their losses so they can get to a place of acceptance and move forward. The article included here gives us four great tools do to so: Acknowledge the loss, Name the feelings, Teach about grief, and Help find meaning.
One way of managing our own fears and anxieties about the Coronavirus Pandemic is to focus our energy on helping others in need. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has many ideas and activities to keep us focused on how to remain calm and kind in the face of this crisis. One example, using these Hello-Help Cards with neighbors or friends who may be in need of assistance (of course while practicing social distance and other safety measures). Hint: This is a great way to earn a PIN through our Community Connections PIN Program.
Mental Health Support
Additionally, here are some important resources for anyone who is struggling with their mental health:
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
- 2nd Floor Hotline: 1-888-222-2228; https://www.2ndfloor.org/
- NJ Mental Health Cares: 1-866-202-HELP (4357); https://www.mhanj.org/
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks - SAMHSA.gov
Taking Time for Gratitude
One proven way that resilient people deal with difficult situations is by practicing gratitude. Here is a sample Gratitude Letter that everyone in your family can use to focus on who and what we are grateful for during this uncertain time. Take the opportunity to let that person know! Gratitude Letter
Guided Mindful Moment links that you can use at home:
Parent Tip: The Gift of Presence