As a mental health professional who works daily in community mental health, I often come face to face with individuals who are struggling with overwhelming feelings such as anxiety, sadness, anger, or depression, and it is not uncommon to be presented with questions about how to cope with those feelings.
During this unprecedented time of uncertainty, all of us, not just mental health professionals, are finding ourselves asking how to help our friends, loved ones, co-workers, and community members cope with overwhelming feelings.
It is very common to feel helpless, to feel anxious, to wonder what the next day will bring, and to not know how to answer questions from children. Social distancing may create feelings of isolation, boredom, resentment, anger, or depression. There are many ways to help cope with those feelings during this time.
Keep up to date on what is happening with the outbreak and additional recommendations by getting information from credible media outlets, local public health authorities, and updates from public health websites (e.g., CDC).
Although you need to stay informed, minimize exposure to media outlets or social media that might promote fear or panic. Be particularly aware of (and limit) how much media coverage or social media time children are exposed to about COVID-19.
Seek support and continued connections from friends and family by talking to them on the telephone, texting, or communicating through email or social media.
Recognize that feelings of loneliness, boredom, fear of contracting disease, anxiety, and stress are normal reactions to a stressful situation such as a disease outbreak. When you start to have these feelings, reach out to someone you trust immediately and get support. You can also call or text one of the resource phone lines listed below.
Engage in fun and meaningful activities consistent with your family and cultural values.
To help feel grounded, engage in a square breathing exercise: 1. Breath in deeply for four seconds. 2. Hold breath for four seconds. 3. Breath out for four seconds. 4. Hold for four seconds; and repeat the cycle four times.
Provide comfort and extra patience reminding one another that this will be temporary.
Remember we are all in this together. Social distancing is something we are doing as a collective society. It is how we can contribute to the health of our community.
If you or your loved ones need mental health support, the following resources are available to help:
— Napa County Health and Human Services Mental Health Access Line: (800) 648-8650 or (707) 259-8151. countyofnapa.org/290/Mental-Health.
— Mentis Intake Line: (707) 255-0966 X 132. mentisnapa.org.
— Aldea Children & Family Services (888) 99ALDEA or (888) 992-5332. aldeainc.org.
— 24/7 crisis line and Napa County Crisis Stabilization Services: (707) 253-4711. Located at 2751 Napa Valley Corporate Dr., Building B, Napa.
— National Distress Helpline. (800) 985-5990 (English and Espanol) or text TalkWithUs to 66746 for support and counseling. The Disaster Distress Helpline is a national hotline that provides 24/7, year-round crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.
This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Spanish-speakers should text Hablanos to 66746. English speakers in U.S. territories text TalkWithUs to 1-212-461-4635. Calls and texts are answered by trained, caring counselors from crisis call centers located throughout the United States.
Standard text and data message rates will apply when texting from mobile phones. International text and data rates may apply from within U.S. territories and free association nations. store.samhsa.gov.
For online resources/articles in English and Spanish to learn about emotional distress during a natural disaster and coping strategies, please visit:
— The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. NCTSNet.org.
— Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: disasterdistress.samhsa.gov.
— Mental Health America: mhanational.org/covid19.
Sarah O’Malley is Napa County’s Mental Health Director.
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