This is certainly a time we never thought we would be facing. How does one prepare for something like the COVID-19 outbreak, which has happened so quickly and has made such a large impact? The answer is, we all have some built-in coping skills, adaptability, and resiliency within us, and need to focus on this to get us through.
There is no doubt that the recent and sudden changes to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have made an impact on every single person. Now, more than ever, we need to take care of one another. Depression and anxiety rates will likely rise, meaning the risk for suicide may also rise during this time. People may feel hopeless when they look at the future or their finances, and see no way out. They may feel overwhelmed trying to juggle their jobs, find childcare, work from home, or homeschool their children. Some are wondering where their next meal is going to come from.
So what can we do to help one another during this time, and do it safely? Stay connected. Make a list of people to call and stay connected with. Check on the elderly and disabled. Offer childcare when appropriate. Offer to pick up food or groceries. Support your local businesses through online ordering and carryout. Make cards for those in hospitals or nursing homes where visitors are limited. If it provides you with comfort, pray with and for one another.
If you have children, now is a great time to teach them lessons about altruism, which is making decisions that are selfless and benefit others. You can teach them how government works, how laws are made, and the importance of respecting your leaders. Show them examples of how communities are coming together. Teach your kids how to be resilient, flexible, and adaptable, even when it feels uncomfortable. These are all transferable skills and coping mechanisms that are valuable for them to use in other life situations.
Remember, your children are watching your every move, emotions, and how you respond to stress. Make sure you are demonstrating healthy coping skills and your own boundaries with media. Show them how you are taking care of your own mental health. Incorporate some structure and routine to maintain a sense of normalcy. You are being called to be the leader in your home, so stay calm, and follow the law. Remember, this is temporary. How often do we complain about how busy we are? So embrace this extra time with your loved ones. Be a model for patience and grace with everyone.
If you are feeling hopeless and need someone to talk to, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or reach out to any of the local mental health agencies and churches, and they will get you connected. You are not alone in this.
Tiffany Pottkotter, PMHNP-BC, PCC, MSN, is a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner.