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Dr. Mayo: How to Respond to COVID19

Professor Mayo discusses our familial and psychological responses


by Dr Nicolle Mayo - April 6, 2020

What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of your experience of COVID 19?

If it’s connected to anything related to SCARY, UNCERTAIN, ISOLATING, EERIE, DEPRESSING, LOSS, CHAOTIC, or VULNERABLE you are feeling what a lot of people are feeling right now. This is an extremely strange situation with a lot of unknowns. As human beings, we don’t do very well with ambiguity. In fact, ambiguity tends to fuel FEAR, one of the other words that might be occupying your mind.

With the news flooded with everything COVID 19, little interaction with others, homebound, out of work, lack of resources, it’s no wonder our minds are focused on these harsher realities. But, what we think about has a direct affect on what we feel and what we do. It’s because of the time that we are in that we need to intentionally re-focus our thoughts on brighter things that are still a part of our reality, but may be lost in the some of the dark messages we are receiving.

We need to remember that we can control what we expose ourselves to, what we think, what we do with how we feel, and how we want to respond. So, where do we start? We start with what we have access to and what we can control.

COVID 19 had taken away our ability to physically interact with people, but it hasn’t taken away our ability to reach out and connect with people. Who is in our life? How connected or disconnected are we to them? Who needs someone to reach out to them? Are we one of those people? One of the best ways to get out of a funk, if we are isolated is to reach out to people ourselves. Although talking on the phone may have been more popular a generation before some of us, there’s nothing to stop us from making this a new skill. Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout, Google Duo are also great programs to connect with people virtually. Make a virtual group date. Have virtual happy hour. Virtually eat dinner together. Make a point to intentionally reach out to one or more people a day. This could lift your mood and theirs!

COVID 19 has taken away some of our extra-curricular activities, but it hasn’t taken away our creativity to come up with new ones. Physical movement of ANY kind makes EVERYONE feel good. Take a walk. Run. Have a dance party. Sing. Play an instrument. Bake. Cook. Get out some board games. Do YouTube Pilates, yoga, aerobic exercise. Ride a bike. Hike. Find a way to move.

COVID 19 has cut out events, social gatherings, church services, but it has given us more time to reflect, pray, and meditate. Although too much alone time under these circumstances is not helpful, some reflective time is very helpful. For big families who are going insane with so much time with one another, having structured alone time can make a huge difference. Island time is a popular happening right now, where families dedicate an hour or so for each member to have solo time doing an activity in their room or separate rooms. It gives them the space they need without a lot of stimulation; something we all need from time to time. If done right, alone time can give us better insight into ourselves and other people, too.

Keeping the days and weeks more structured helps us feel more in control of what’s going on in our lives. It provides stability and consistency- what everybody needs, not just kids. Plan the day with what activities will be done when, including wake-up times, nap times, alone time, homework time, play time, music time, shower time, eating time. This also makes the day go by faster.

COVID 19 has taken away some of our essential resources, like food, income, and jobs, but it hasn’t taken away those wanting and willing to help. Local food banks are open additional hours and days during the week. Grocery stores are hosting canned food drives. Local churches have been providing breakfasts and lunches to kids out of school. Tioga county services has access to other programs and services willing to help. Please reach out to those stranded or struggling. Or, if you are struggling yourself, please call any of these resources. People are standing by ready to help.

COVID 19 has inundated us with fear, but it can’t hold us victim. We can control how much we expose ourselves to the news. As helpful as the news can be in providing updated information; the news can also be detrimental to our health if it’s negative. Monitor what you watch and when you watch it. Watch one segment a day or choose where you find and get your news and when. This gives us back a little bit of control we felt we lost when our lives where turned upside down. Find funny videos or TV shows to watch instead. Or use this time to post funny or encouraging videos for others to watch.

Fear can also lead to depression and anxiety (especially if we feel isolated), but having people “around” to inundate us with truths can counter the negative thoughts running through our heads. Going back to people time, remember we are relational and need relationships to thrive. Make room for people to help.

Remember to focus on the good, the better. There are so many GOOD things happening, too. RELATIONSHIPS, HELP, SUPPORT, TIME, CREATIVITY, THOUGHTFUL, FAMILY, CARING, LOVE, GOD. These words are positive and they replenish our spirits much more than the words mentioned in the beginning of this feature. SGN is the name of a new video post that came out the other day. “Some Good News”, hosted by John Krasinski focused specifically on the “Good News” happening in the world. And there is plenty of that. Let’s choose to focus on that, so that the words that come to mind about this experience energize us, make us feel good, and keep us reaching out to encourage one another.

Yesterday DHS Secretary Theresa Miller announced the support and referral warmline during her weekly update.

Below is the announcement and support line information.

Secretary Miller’s Announcement: Mental Health/Warmline
As I’ve mentioned previously, we’re in an unprecedented time for everyone. It’s uncertain and very scary. This fear is completely understandable, and the indefinite timeline is likely creating a lot of anxiety during a time where we may be or feel more removed from our support networks. But social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation, and we want people to know that even as we all face this difficult period, no one is alone.

Beginning at 6 p.m. on April 1, we are partnering with the Center for Community Resources to offer a 24/7 mental health and crisis support line for people dealing with anxiety or other difficult emotions. Callers will be able to speak with staff who are trained in trauma-informed principles and will listen, assess the person’s needs, triage, and refer to other local supports and professionals as needed.

The Mental Health Support Line can be reached toll-free, 24/7 at 1-855-284-2494. We’re going to be formally announcing this soon, but I hope you all help us spread the word on this critical resource.


Idea/Concept: Dr Nicolle Mayo

Video Editing: Andrew Moore

Writing: Dr Nicolle Mayo

Anchor: Johanna Vogt


Produced by Vogt Media

Funded by Laurel Health Centers, Jim & Mary McIlvaine

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