Quincy News

Staying busy at home 'good for your mental health'

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 1, 2020 12:01 am Updated: Apr. 1, 2020 5:52 pm

QUINCY — Judy Taylor doesn't have to look far to find signs of spring.

"I have daffodils blooming," the Quincy woman said. "Hope is in the air!"

Maintaining that sense of hope is more important than ever for Taylor at a time when she says the world seems to be a science fiction movie with all of us as the actual participants.

But instead of dwelling on the COVID-19 pandemic, she's staying busy while staying at home.

"We got our garage cleaned out. I spent two days in the flower beds. This home vacation isn't so bad so far," Taylor said. "I'm going all the other things I want to do that need to be done -- going through drawers, rearranging cabinets. It's good for your mental health. You feel good when you accomplish something."

Coronavirus creates concerns for everyone, mental health professionals say, and compounds them for those already struggling with anxiety.

"It's going to exacerbate problems that may have already existed with increased stress because Mom or Dad isn't working, increased stress from economic woes, increased stress due to the virus, increased stress with your family in your home much more than you're used to. All things being combined can become ?difficult for people," said Chris Parker, executive director of Cornerstone.

It's a very uncertain time, and human beings aren't comfortable with uncertainty which drives more anxiety.

"People have to accept there's going to be things out of our control, but there's still things we can control," said Barb Baker Chapin, director of development at Transitions of Western Illinois. "We can take control over how we wash our hands, disinfect surfaces in our home and maintain social distance. Take control of things we still have control over which helps us feel we are still in control."

Stay busy while spending time at home -- with tasks that many people think they never have time to do.

Clean closets. Rearrange furniture. Organize photos. Plan a garden. Play a game with the kids.

"Those activities can get your mind off your worries," Baker Chapin said. "Look for ways to be active. Look for ways to reach out to other people."

Taylor, a mostly retired minister, believes people should be taking advantage of this time.

"It's an opportunity, hopefully, that we'll never have again to do things we put off," she said. "I've still got projects, and by the time house projects are done, it will be outside time."

Chapin stressed the importance of maintaining a routine for adults and kids.

"Many of us are working from home. It's easy to not get in the shower, not get dressed, not exercise, no do things you routinely do," she said. "You really want to establish a routine for yourself and for your children so you're getting up at a regular time, eating three regular meals a day."

Make good self-care part of the routine.

"Eat right. Don't overindulge in alcohol. Exercise as best you can in the house or go for a walk. Do relaxation exercises or things you find relaxing – taking a bath, reading a book, watching a movie," Parker said.

"One key to managing emotions and mood right now is limit how much social media you take in and how often we watch the news so that we stay informed but it's not information overload."

Each person needs to find his or her own comfort level to cope.

"I know some people who haven't left their house all the way to myself coming to work and still seeing clients," Parker said. "It's the whole gamut of where you fit with what you think is safe and what you tolerate in terms of stress and anxiety."

Taylor tries to hold onto positive thoughts throughout the day.

"Keeping emotionally healthy is important. Morning prayer or meditation. Exercising the mind as well as the body," she said. "A positive practice for me is a simple meditation from the Dalai Lama: As you breathe in, say ‘may I cherish myself.' As you breathe out, say ‘may I cherish others.' Five minutes at the start of a day and evening for grounding self."

Make time to talk to children, who often are just as anxious as adults.

"Kids know that something bad's going on. To not answer questions or talk with them creates more anxiety on their part," Baker Chapin said. "Talk to the child very calmly without a lot of emotion, and they'll get the sense you're in control and dealing with this. It's a way of modeling for them that bad things can happen, but we are going to be OK."



When mental health issues become overwhelming, help is just a phone call away.

Mental health professionals are considered essential services in the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're still open," Cornerstone Executive Director Chris Parker said.

"We implemented social distancing things in the office. We can implement a lot of the same rules we're doing in our personal life in the office to keep clients and staff safe," he said. "If people are not comfortable meeting face to face, we can look at telehealth over the phone."

More information about Cornerstone and its services is available by calling 217-222-8254.

Transitions of Western Illinois has expanded its crisis services during the pandemic.

The agency's mental health staff is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday for crisis services. People can call Transitions at 217-223-0413 and ask to speak to a crisis worker to discuss their situation over the phone or set up a video chat, or people can walk into the agency at 4409 Maine and be seen for crisis counseling.

Transitions also offers a C-19 emotional support hotline, manned by its clinical staff, available by calling 217-653-0416. The hotline operates 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Transitions continues to offer counseling, therapy and psychiatric services. Unless there is a clinic need for meeting face-to-face, the services are provided via phone or video conferencing.

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