Kim Palchikoff: Tips to help you cope in a time of crisis
During this time of national tragedy, I’m sure that hundreds of thousands of Nevadans are experiencing some form of an emotional crisis, unemployment being a big cause of it. Staying indoors round the clock doesn’t help anything.
As someone who’s lived with bipolar disorder for over 30 years, I’ve had plenty of crises and have learned to cope with feelings like anxiety, fear, sadness, anger and hopelessness. I wanted to share below some lessons that I’ve learned over the years with readers who may be experiencing overwhelming feelings as our state and nation fight this coronavirus.
Focus on the here and now
You may be worried about what could happen down the road two or three months from now, but you should focus instead on the problems that need to be dealt with in the next 12 hours. Put everything else on the back burner. My mother, a therapist, reminds me of this often, especially when I feel overwhelmed by life. She frequently reminds me to get my priorities straight, put things in perspective and to write down everything that is bothering me. Then I prioritize the list of items and just focus on the one or two things that are immediately the most important, like getting some exercise outdoors or writing one column.
Consider purchasing a pill box
When your mind is having a hard time concentrating or remembering things, which can accompany feelings of anxiety and stress, having your pills separated day by day saves you from recalling whether you took them or not. I like keeping my pill box prominently displayed on my bathroom sink counter.
Purchasing a 90-day supply of medication saves something else to think about – making repeated trips to your pharmacy or calling your doctor for monthly refills. Some insurance companies only pay for one month at a time, but at least the prescription is in. The online medication company GoodRX.com can provide discounted coupons worth looking into. FYI, you must show the coupon to the pharmacy on your cell phone or print it out.
Talk about your feelings
The conversation doesn’t have to be with a mental health professional, who may not even be available during a crisis. It can be with friends or family. Even though people may not want to share bad news, or feel uncomfortable unloading their thoughts and feelings on someone, but having difficult feelings is normal.
If you feel that you’re in a crisis, get help. There’s nothing wrong with calling someone and saying, “I’m feeling down. Can I talk to you?” Sometimes all that’s needed is someone to listen, not necessarily give advice. I recommend letting the person know how much time approximately you need, because they may think you need a five-minute conversation, and agree to it, but in reality you need more of their time, and the conversation may have to end early because they have things to do and that can be stressful. Sometimes people may have more time the following day.
Whether positive or negative, all feelings come and go
They aren’t a permanent fixture in your mind and you don’t have to feel them round the clock. When they do seem to take over your life, that might be the time to reach out for medical help, either to your primary care physician or a psychiatrist. Primary care doctors can prescribe basic psychiatric medications for things like anxiety and depression. For more complicated cases they usually refer their patients to a specialist. But try your primary care doctor first.
Apart from medication, there are other ways to make bad feelings disappear, or at least be experienced to a lesser degree or less frequently. Not all ways help all people de-stress, or cope better with their emotions, but individuals who have coping strategies will handle their situation better. Incorporate dedicated time for relaxation.
Some common coping strategies include doing some form of exercise, from practicing yoga or going for a walk to taking a bike ride, or even dancing in your living room. You don’t have to live with negative emotions. Don’t wait long periods of time to deal with them.
Reach out to friends and family to socialize and have fun These days it most likely will be by phone, email, text or a video conferencing program like Skype or Zoom. You don’t have to meet in person. Have virtual events like a virtual happy hour or a regular meal, like breakfast or dinner. With thousands of Americans infected with coronavirus, it’s a good time not only to take care of your own mental well-being but help somebody else.
Accept that there are many things in our lives that are out of control
Feeling a lack of control can be frustrating, lead to feelings of anger and even cause you to take it out on others. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s important to feel like we’re in control of our lives. It’s soothing to focus on the things we can control – cleaning your house, going through all the junk in your garage. I find that organizing my house clutter makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.
My bipolar disorder requires that I take a variety of medications, and they help me feel in control of my emotions. Medications alone won’t work miracles, but they can be effective.
Make a list of everything you feel in control of, and work on those items: eating healthy, doing activities like cleaning out your file cabinet or playing online games, or communicating with friends. Writing things down that you have control over and putting the list somewhere visible that you see everyday, like on your refrigerator, can be useful.
Don’t feel weird or uncomfortable about reaching out to mental health professionals
It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. You are taking actions that can help you cope. Professionals spend their careers helping people solve issues with their emotions. Many are solvable and not as difficult as we often think.
Take care of your sleep
Go to bed at the same time every night, and maybe do some relaxation exercises before you turn in. Mental health professionals always talk about this. I like watching humorous Netflix and Hulu programs for 30 minutes — nothing too heavy, depressing or violent. Others may want to journal, pray or read. If you don’t get a good night’s rest and allow your brain to sleep for eight hours, your next day may be stressful.
Make time to laugh
Even when there doesn’t seem anything funny about the coronavirus, find time for humor. I like to watch online re-runs of Saturday Night Live and Late Night comedy shows. This counteracts the negative thoughts in my brain. And it’s relaxing.
Do you have ideas of your own? You can post them at my Blog: Nostigmanv.net. or Facebook nostigmanv