By Patricia Jones, Task Force on Poverty
During our COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing so many uncertainties combine to create problems for all of us. We have health scares. Many of us have lost jobs. Several of the products we rely on are not available right now. Food insecurity in our area is unprecedented. The media and social networks are filling us with fear. We don’t know if what we are hearing is truth or lies. Our reactions are often extreme: panic or denial.
Our interaction with friends and family has been limited. We cannot even drop our children off at school, knowing that they will not only be educated, they will be fed, have physical activity, interact with friends and adults, and be cared for in so many ways.
Social isolation is an important part of protecting ourselves from exposure to COVID-19. Social isolation grants us time to pause and reflect, but it often leads to loneliness, which can create mental health issues.
How do we deal with our loneliness issues when we know we should remain isolated? It’s time to learn new ways to socialize: Zoom, Google hangouts, Facetime, Skype are used by our family, along with regular phone calls. It’s also a time to revisit that lost art of letter writing, which causes us to spend time with our thoughts and emotions.
One of the best ways to keep your family mentally healthy is to establish routines and set times for your household. Get up at the same time every morning, and go to bed at the same time each night. Have set mealtimes. Shower or bath schedules are important. There should be a quiet time when you read or meditate. Consider setting times and limits for devices like video games, computers, tablets, phones.
Regular exercise is an important way to not only stay physically healthy but mentally healthy as well. Even though gyms are closed, we can still be active. Set a time for exercise, whether that be in your house or riding bikes or going for walks.
It is also a good idea to establish family time. Have everyone in your household eat together. Have a night for board games. Take turns picking a movie to watch together. Work in the kitchen or yard together.
A pandemic quarantine or isolation offers an opportunity for stillness and solitude which we don’t often grant ourselves. Calm yourself by sitting quietly and reflecting on your gifts, on all the things you can be grateful for. Let go of the need to worry about or try to control things that are beyond your individual life.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Don’t overlook the things you can do for yourself and your family. This summer, focus on staying mentally healthy. To quote from the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.