Let’s start with an emotional health check.
- How is your mood right now? Is it better or worse than it was when you woke today?
- Are you able to find something to do safely that you enjoy?
- Have you felt joy this week?
- Are you feeling motivated to do things around the house?
If you’re feeling great, check in on someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
If you’re feeling just okay, purposefully seek out something to do that brings you joy.
If this triggered a feeling of sadness, immediately call someone you trust and connect with them. It’s okay to not be okay, and ask for help. Mood disorders are common in people with neurologic conditions, and they often cause stress for that person and their care partners. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, all people are experiencing greater anxiety, depression and other feelings due to the need for social distancing and isolation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a pandemic can cause:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
- Changes in sleep and eating patterns.
- Difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
- Worsening of chronic health problems and emotional health.
The unfortunate reality is this will be our reality for a while. So, it’s important to manage your emotional health and find ways to keep your spirit lively.
One way to consider supporting your emotional health is to find a meaningful way to connect with others. Here are some ideas worth sharing.
1. Join an online support group
Melinda McGuire, a licensed social worker at the OhioHealth Dempsey Family Education and Resource Center, has seen an increase in the number of neurologic patients reaching out for help and support through its virtual support groups and classes.
“A lot of our neurologic patients relied on many in-person interactions as part of their weekly wellness routine,” says McGuire. “It’s not the same with a Zoom conference call, but it does help to stay connected.”
The Dempsey Center offers support groups for people with Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, depression, stroke and traumatic brain injury, as well as care partners. Many throughout the community are also being offered online. Contact the Dempsey Center team at (614) 788.6115 or email DempseyCenter@OhioHealth.com to register for a group.
2. Send a surprise … just because
When was the last time you sent a surprise to someone with no reason for it? Surprises bring joy to the giver and the receiver. It can be a card in the mail, some homemade cookies, flowers or a special treat – the options are limitless! You can even think of a safe experience, like Columbus’ Curbside Concerts for older adults in our community who may be feeling isolated right now.
3. Establish a new routine to get moving
Finding motivation to stay active may be harder than ever. “One thing our neurologic patients really miss is their ability to exercise in person with one another,” says McGuire. “A lot of our patients rely on exercise as part of managing their diagnosis.”
McGuire suggests finding a way to establish a new routine if you haven’t yet.
If you enjoy walking, set a goal to walk outdoors (weather permitting) for 10 minutes in the morning and evening each day. Over time, you could work on raising your heart rate by increasing your speed and distance.
Or try one of the many online fitness options, such as The MS Gym and Wellthon, which offers workouts in partnership with OhioHealth designed to minimize Parkinson’s disease symptoms. The OhioHealth Dempsey Center also offers online neuro yoga classes.
Find ways to bring your friends into your new routine. “One Delay the Disease participant created a weekly workout and emailed it to his friends,” said McGuire. “It was a fun, humorous way to keep his group connected and active.”
4. Creatively and safely socialize
We all miss our extended families and our weekly or monthly gatherings with friends. We want to celebrate birthdays, weddings, births and celebrations of life. If, when and how may look different for each individual.
Those with chronic conditions and older adults are at risk for more serious complications from COVID-19 and should take extra precautions when gathering with others. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine put forth a mass gathering order on July 30 that provides guidance:
- Gatherings at a household or family residence should be limited to close friends and family, and are recommended to be 10 visitors or less.
- Residents in a red or purple county, as designated by the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, should limit hosting or attending gatherings of any size.
- Wear a mask at all times at gatherings and maintain physical distance.
- Use take out, outdoor dining, or indoor dining only when strict social distancing can be maintained.
- Protect anyone with serious medical conditions at home by social distancing at home, wearing a mask and using high levels of personal hygiene.
- High-risk individuals should take extra precautions to limit the number of people they interact with.
- Make the group of people you interact with most often as small as possible, and make sure that they are taking appropriate COVID-19 precautions, even if you are just gathering with family friends or neighbors at your home.
If it’s not safe to socialize in person, get creative. You could organize a scavenger hunt in the fall and watch from your car as your nieces, nephews or grandkids discover hidden treasures! Or, you can organize a Zoom call with your friends with a fun theme. Whatever you choose to do, do it with your health and safety in mind.
5. Talk to someone
Feelings of anxiety, stress, depression and isolation can sometimes trigger emotional and mental health disorders. If you’re in distress, the most important thing to do is get help. There are many resources in our communities and nationwide to connect with if you need support.
Crisis hotlines – If you’re in distress, the Ohio Department of Health recommends calling the 24/7 National Disaster Distress Helpline at 1 (800) 985.5990 or texting TalkWithUs to 66746. Other resources can be found on the Ohio Department of Health website.
Warmlines – These telephone services were created to give people support when they just need to talk to someone. They can also link you to a crisis hotline if you need help with suicidal thoughts or other crises. There are three warmlines serving people across Ohio:
- The Cincinnati Warm Line: (513) 931.9276
- Contact Crawford County: (419) 562.9010
- Portage Path Community Mental Health Center: (330) 434.9144