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Mental Health Professionals Offer Tips to Avoid ‘Cabin Fever’

Saturday, March 21, 2020 @ 12:03 AM

Posted by Jill McDermott

hiker-918704_1280CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – Area residents are spending more time at home due to closures to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Children are home from school.

Many businesses have closed, and residents are staying home and not spending time with other people.

Stress due to uncertainty combined with limits on movement could lead to short tempers.

David Delvaux, Clinical Liaison at the Clarion Psychiatric Center, explained that we can’t control how others react to this situation.

“How we deal with our own and others’ short tempers is what we can control,” he said.

He has the following suggestions to avoid flaring tempers as the stress builds.

-Take a timeout. If you feel your temper rising, remove yourself from the situation completely;
-Think before you speak;
-Keep a journal;
-Practice relaxation techniques;
-Take a walk; and
-Engage in a hobby you enjoy.

Long-planned family events such as weddings and reunions that have been on the calendar for months are not going to be able to take place as scheduled.

Delvaux said it’s best to acknowledge your disappointment, then look ahead.

“Brainstorm ideas of ways to simulate the planned event,” he added.

You can use webinars, video chatting, or other technology to bring family and friends together for a virtual meeting or celebration.

“Brainstorm ways to celebrate the special moments. Plan to get a few family members or friends together when it is safe to congregate.

“Have a small gathering rather than large – make it meaningful. Share pictures and announcements to connect with those not in attendance. Plan a future gathering when risk is low.”

Ronald Palmer, Psychologist with Rural Mental Health Associates, Inc., in Oil City, said that social distancing can be challenging for those who have loved ones at risk, especially if that person is in a hospital or in an assisted living facility where visitors are restricted.

“This touches pretty close to home with me, as my wife’s mom is in a nursing home in Erie,” Palmer said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think there is an easy fix for this. If our loved one can communicate, then certainly phone calls, Face Timing, or Skyping are alternatives.

“For folks who are suffering from dementia, it certainly complicates these communications. My wife and her family are sending her mom cards and photos. The younger, great-grandchildren are drawing pictures and making cards to send.”

Not only are visits to at-risk family members and friends off-limits, but many of our regular activities are also not taking place. This could leave many residents feeling isolated.

“While we need to avoid social interaction and not congregate in groups, there is no reason that we can’t do things outside and with the improving weather,” Palmer noted.

“I think this provides the opportunity to get a jump on our spring activities. I also think this together time gives us the opportunity to do things that we don’t do as often as we should; playing board games, watching an old movie together as a family.”

Technology can help us stay busy and keep in touch, but Palmer says it may be best to limit screen time.

“I don’t think that it is ever good to spend “a lot” of time in front of the television or computer,” Palmer added. “However, I think this is a reality of our age. Everything in moderation is the thing I recommend to folks. I also think what we are watching on TV or computer matters.”

Delvaux agreed. He suggested trying to keep to as much of your regular schedule as possible. He says getting ready for the day, as usual, reduces the urge to stay sedentary.

“Plan a to-do list of what you want to tackle or accomplish,” he suggested. “That could include paying bills, errands, laundry, areas of the house you want to clean, reading chapters, or articles you want to read – give yourself assignments.”

He also recommended planning relaxation and exercise time. With mild weather, take walks, hikes, or bike rides. With harsh weather, look for online video and written workouts that can be done at home with little or no equipment.

Exercise is not to be overlooked, Delvaux added.

“It may come as a surprise to some, but exercise works wonders when it comes to mental health, including diagnosable conditions like depression and anxiety disorders, but also with temporary feelings of isolation and loneliness.”


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