WEST HAVEN, CT — These are certainly trying times for everyone with increased isolation due to concerns over the new coronavirus. But for those already suffering with depression, it can be particularly difficult. Especially for those struggling with the new guidelines about obtaining mental health services through telehealth.
Mary Ann Starkes, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, shared with Patch several important tips on how to maintain mental health during this time of increased isolation. Starkes has a private practice (psychiatry) in Hamden and also works for the Connecticut Healing Center in Hamden. She is a graduate of Yale University’s School of Nursing and retired from the West Haven VA Medical Center.
Starkes suggests the following to her clients that she is currently working with via telehealth:
1. Maintain a schedule as closely as possible to the one you had previously to the seclusion imposed by the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
2. Get outside several times/day. Take a walk, while maintaining adequate social distancing. (6 feet from the other person). Do some type of exercise daily.
3. Don't eat too much junk food. Cook more, as this is healthier, and also provides some stimulation and enjoyment with the process of meals.
4. Take breaks from watching the news. Constant watching will contribute to anxiety.
5. Take stock of your finances. See where you can cut down, where you need to contact financial institutions to ask for help. Don't panic. Everyone is in this situation, and hopefully we will all get through this.
6. Think about ways to help that maintain safety. A) Call friends/family. B) See if neighbors need help, especially elderly one. C) Give blood if you can or donate in other ways. This gives an excellent experience of being helpful, purposeful and being a positive contributor to the process.
7. Play games with family members or people that you live with. It breaks up the "alone time" and gives a neutral/fun medium to break up the time.
8. Remember that this too shall pass. Take it one day at a time rather than get too upset about how long it will take. Think about astronauts who are alone in space for long periods of time. They focus on the daily and keep a routine. They break it up with fun things to do. That is how they maintain their mental health.
9. If you become too anxious or depressed, reach out to a professional. Most of us are doing telehealth and can be found on the internet if you are not already connected to a provider. Don't try to tough it out. This is the time to ask for help early not later.
10. Finally, look for the positives. These times require resilience, and we all have the capacity to get through. We can learn some new skills that we did not need previously, and that can build self-esteem!