Q: Since I retired several years ago my social support system has narrowed considerably. I have become very emotional lately. Every day when I learn about the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 going up, how many people have passed away and the awful conditions medical personnel are dealing with. I am healthy and no one I know has gotten sick, so I should be grateful. Yet I still have this overwhelming feeling of doom and gloom. How do I get out of this depressing frame of mind?
A: First of all what you are experiencing is not unusual and you are certainly not alone in your feelings. People are worried about their health, security and economic well-being and wondering how much longer we will be in this sense of uncertainty.
It may be challenging to even attempt to focus on a positive outcome at this point but there is a ray of hope. Clinical trials are showing promise in the treatment of the virus. The majority of patients do get better in time and in some instances the symptoms are so mild a person may not even be aware they have been exposed. On April 29, the first patient admitted to Mt. Sinai West Hospital in New York with COVID-19 was discharged after 53 days. This was an uplifting sight watching him being wheeled out the front door of the hospital.
It is going to take focus on your part to pull yourself up and know this isn’t hopeless. Get up every morning as if this was any other time. Take a shower, make your bed, get dressed and eat a healthy breakfast. Don’t fall into the trap of staying in your pajamas and ignoring how you look. Stay connected with people. Just because you can’t physically be with them doesn’t mean you should be out of touch. Make calls, text, email or reach out through Zoom or other social media connections. Get some fresh air every day, and exercise both your body and mind. Maintain your regular sleep routine and avoid alcohol/drugs.
You may need to make a decision to limit your exposure to the news if it is making you anxious. Check for an update once a day. Think about what activities will help you relax whether that is listening to music, meditating, aroma therapy or reading a good book. If you are having a particularly bad day there are resources available to help. The Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 provides counseling for people who are experiencing distress to any disaster. Another option is 211 and choose “Call2Talk” option. There is no shame in reaching out for help.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation in the home, office or community. For more details, please call our Lawrence Office at 800-892-0890 or Danvers Office at 978-750-4540.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore, Inc.:
Lawrence Office: Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Danvers Office: Information and Referral, 300 Rosewood Drive, Suite 200, Danvers, MA 01923 or email@example.com
Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.