FAIRMONT — With the coronavirus COVID-19 shutting down many businesses and work employers, people may find themselves without much to do in their homes under quarantine.
Jude Black, therapist at Appalachian Life Enrichment Counseling in Fairmont, said it’s OK to be worried during such a time of uncertainty.
“We have lots of uncertainty right now, and we can’t really problem-solve the source of the problem,” Black said.
The results of being indoors and away from normal life and other people for an extended period of time, Black said, can throw off a person’s feelings, because they are in an unfamiliar situation. For this reason, people may be experiencing more depression and anxiety because they are facing an unprecedented situation in coronavirus.
“The reality is, with this social distancing and self-quarantine, I know that depression is increasing and anxiety is increasing,” Black said. “Depression increases when there is a lack of connection. So individuals who experience depression of any kind, they almost have to be hyper-aware and allow themselves to take action. For anxiety, it’s really the opposite. It’s not the lack of connection, it’s more about the fear of chaos.”
Black urges anyone facing depression or anxiety to focus on breathing, which can be a therapeutic exercise to people experiencing anxiety.
“I encourage people to focus on that – exhale,” Black said. “I call it ‘Box breathing,’ because I try to visualize getting all of the inner chaos out. And that’s why that exhale is important.”
Black also said people should write down things in their lives they are grateful for, because they can sometimes be forgotten in times when the mind is overwhelmed.
“The second thing I thought about was practicing gratitude,” Black said. “As humans, we are hardwired to look for the bad, because it kept us safe. I’m encouraging people to really look for something that they’re grateful for and practice gratitude.”
Along with depression and anxiety, social isolation has been proven to cause loneliness, which has other negative long-term effects on the body. Laurie Theeke, a nursing professor at West Virginia University and nurse practitioner at WVU Medicine, researches loneliness and offers ways to avoid it during the COVID-19 threat.
“Social isolation is very harmful to health and contributes to poor health outcomes, especially for older adults,” said Theeke.
Theeke suggests keeping a regular schedule during the Stay at Home order so life can have structure. It may not be the kind of schedule everyone has been used to, but it will offer normalcy.
“A schedule helps us to stay on track and will help you to feel engaged throughout the day. Include items in your schedule that help you to stay connected. For example, put it on your schedule to call a different neighbor each day if that helps. Add calling a child or parent daily. These types of scheduled contacts will help you get through the pandemic and help you to feel good about your proactive approach to maintaining social ties,” Theeke said.
Along with our minds, Theeke said everyone should remain aware of taking care of our bodies during such an unprecedented time. She said exercise is one way to do that.
“Make every effort to stay healthy because it is known that a lack of sleep and exercise will contribute to loneliness. Know that foods like fruits and vegetables contribute to hormones that increase your happiness. For many, social distancing means cooking at home, so plan for healthy meals,” Theeke said.
Another way Theeke said we can take our minds off of the possible anxiety this period is causing is to do something as simple as helping someone else while keeping social distancing in mind.
“Helping others makes people feel better. Is there a list of people that you can connect with by phone in an effort to help them feel more connected? Make a list and call them. Ask them if it is OK to check in daily,” Theeke said.
West Virginians are creative people. This downtime, Theeke said, could also be an opportunity to tackle a do-it-yourself project or other creative avenue.
“People in Appalachia corner the market on crafting and do-it-yourself projects. Plan to use the time you gain from social distancing to start an at-home project or get back into a hobby. We know that engaging in creative activities can help to prevent feeling lonely. It is hard to be lonely when you are enjoying doing something,” Theeke said.