To ensure a safe journey through the present hazardous times of the COVID-19 pandemic, make wise choices.
Be vigilant to protect yourself and others from one of the most virulent and destructive viruses of the century. Keep tuned to the latest news and recommendation from reputable sources, but be careful to avoid any politically motivated misinformation. The COVID-19 infections and spread will continue until effective anti-viral drugs, vaccines, adequate testing, and contact tracing are available.
At higher risk for life-threatening infections are individuals with obesity, diabetes, smokers with chronic respiratory disease, kidney, and cardiovascular (heart) disease, and immune deficiencies. The vulnerable for whom COVID-19 can be a deadly illness, as well as all other that are potential spreaders of the virus, need to avoid crowding in closed spaces, especially where people are not wearing masks and social distancing. see article – Avoiding COVID-19 Risk
Take steps to help sustain health and endurance during the present demanding times.
Our population has experienced a significant increase in anxiety, depression, illnesses, and death. Emotional distress and mental impairment can cause loss of work-time, disruptions in relationships, drug addictions, and suicidality. Early recognition, getting support and help, is a key for the prevention and reduction of the risk for chronic emotional and mental impairments and related physical illnesses.
When severe and recurrent fear and anxiety persist, help and relief can be possible with adequate support and assistance. Look to get unstuck from unhealthy patterns of behavior, rigid beliefs, and fearful or painful memories.
Guidance and therapy can be useful and help to
- Reduce or eliminate anxiety, panic, addictions, and trauma-held issues
- Be more present, mindful, and aware
- Improve sleep, calmness, energy, focus, concentration, and daily functioning
- Develop greater acceptance and compassion
- Regain the wisdom and the balance of personal power, self-needs, and the needs of others
- Reestablish social support and networks
Therapies for anxiety, mood impairments, and prior trauma, can reduce stress and anxiety.
Helpful therapeutic interventions as those with a holistic, humanistic, or transpersonal approach can provide:
- Education about the body’s physiological reaction to fear and threat
- Experiential, talk/listening, person to person, or group therapies
- Desensitization to the various physical sensations or triggers of anxiety/panic through the exposure of a person to the actual anxiety-provoking objects, situations, or thoughts
- Catastrophic thought reducing techniques
- Improvement in relaxation, breathing, stress, anger, conflict management techniques, and social interaction skills
- Restructuring of dysfunctional thoughts and patterns
- Personal insights and realizations of one’s inner strength to overcome obstacles
- The transformation from being the victim of horrible traumatic experience and memories to a broader perception of life, one’s power, and potentialities
- Acceptance that the mind/body is continually moving toward the healing of its own emotional and mental health difficulties
- Commitment to the healing process and therapeutic work
- Support for the release of frozen past traumatic memories and constricting defenses, to regain energy flow and vitality
- Assistance for regaining flexibility, getting unstuck from rigid core beliefs and attitudes
- Expansion of vision and perspective beyond the narrow constraints of a limiting mind-ego – the learned, enculturated, molded-self that strongly influences our life experience
Underlying medical conditions can also contribute to anxiety and feelings of vulnerability. Healthcare providers are often not familiar with the potentially devastating effect and disability caused by the improper care of anxiety-related conditions. Management of anxiety done with a tranquilizer, an antidepressant, or reassurance by conventional healthcare practitioners is often not enough. A thorough evaluation by a qualified and experienced medical and mental health practitioner that has skills and expertise in working with anxiety, panic, and mood difficulties, is often warranted, helpful, and a better route to go when available. Finding caring and valuable assistance, when possible for you, may get at the deeper issues and the roots of anxiety or mood conditions.
Medication may be of value in resistant or severe emotional or mental health conditions, like major depression, if more natural therapies have not been effective. Antidepressants or tranquilizers type of medications are often used by conventional medical practitioners and sometimes bring more immediate relief. However, their long-term use is controversial with the concern for their possible cause of other medical issues. Trying to stop medication can lead to relapse, or, in the case of some of the tranquilizing drugs or alcohol can cause withdrawal symptoms or seizures. They may not have the same lasting effect and benefits that take place with useful and appropriate therapy programs and the use of natural alternatives.
Integrative, holistic, and natural therapies, when combined with more traditional treatment, can be the most effective course of treatment. Some positive complementary approaches for consideration are:
- Lifestyle modifications and life skill enhancements
- Mind, body and spiritual practice as yoga, chi gong, mindfulness, meditation, creative arts, breathwork, exercise with mindfulness as running, swimming, biking, or dance
- Stress management and relaxation techniques
- Acupuncture and massage therapies
- Targeted nutritional therapies, botanical medicine, and nutritional education about dietary choices, and micronutrients (as herbs, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and protein
Additional Lifesavers and Health Guards
- Reduce the time watching, checking social media, or listening to news stories on your T.V., computer, or smartphone when home or in the workplace. Check only once or twice per day to keep informed. Pick unbiased, truthful, and authoritative news outlets that do not have partisan political ties. Avoid misinformation or politically motivated reporting about the virus, pandemics, or politics. Hearing about the problems repeatedly during the day can lead to increased worry, anxiety, tension, and poor sleep.
- Replace inactivity as passive watching, listening, or obsessing about current worries or events with frequent time-outs with active movement. Active movement includes regular exercise and stretching. Keep to a daily practice and sleep schedule. Try for fifteen to thirty minutes or more, once to three times per day, of active body movement. Benefits come from many different forms of exercise, indoors or outside, like walking, biking, climbing stairs, or vigorous activity/work in your living space.
- Do relax, enjoy, and allow any worries and fears to the background of your awareness as you fully embrace physical movement, breathing, and letting go of tension. After doing a good exercise routine, you can treat yourself with a nice hot bath with a couple of cups of Epson salt and a few drops of essential oils as lavender oil to melt away any remaining tension. Always when possible, get outside and into a natural setting. Being in and closer to nature is very calming and healing. Move and breathe, take in the beauty and harmony that abounds in the life and environment around us.
- Eating healthy meals (avoiding sweet binging and over-snacking on high sugar and caloric food or drinks) – do regular relaxation times with deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Sleep to get adequate restorative rest. Cut down or stop smoking or vaping, which can put you at higher risk for a COVID-19 infection. Use a nicotine patch if necessary. Avoid alcohol and non-prescription drugs. If working from home or in the workplace, take more frequent breaks, stand more, and go outside for walks.
- Get involved with enjoyable recreational or artistic activities like art, writing, and craftwork. Read a good book. Complete home construction projects or prepare new recipes and meals. It is the time for creative homeschooling if you have children. Enjoy listening to music, dancing, or watching a good movie. Complete a crossword or jigsaw puzzle. Watch a comedy show for some humor and laughs.
Further Healthy Survival Ways
- Stay socially connected with friends, family, and community through video chats, texts, emails, phone calls, or doing socially-distanced meetings using face masks as required. Share your concerns about what you’re experiencing. Value what has made you laugh amidst all the outside turmoil.
- Learn or do yoga, mindfulness practices, meditation, or beneficial exercise routines to help with destressing and relaxing. Look for some interesting instructional videos that you can watch online with your computer or smartphones. If the time and resources are available, participate in an online virtual certification, continuing education, learning a new trade, or even a university degree program.
- Let the current pandemic crisis – a time of significant disruption and travails – be a time to do an in-depth review of what is truly important and meaningful. Meditate and reflect on what is beyond your fears and self-preoccupations. Be aware of our small but significant connection with everything outside of ourselves. Find some inspirational readings or online teachings from the spiritual, mystical, or faith traditions to which we can relate and be inspired.
- Find some meaning and purpose in the turmoil and tragedy that surrounds us. Being more centered and grounded will bring better preparedness for what may unfold in the coming days, which may call for the strength and the spirit to both do the best for yourself and others, while not giving in to fear or over-focusing on personal issues and losses. Allow the current crisis and stresses to inspire you towards living a simpler, more meaningful life, to serve better the greater good, the community, and the environment. Be encouraged to be socially active to bring change.
- Take time to do absolutely nothing, be in the moment, breathe, take it all in that is, both the trouble and worry, but also all that is comforting, beautiful, and inspiring for you – all of that for which you can be thankful. Take a respite, a time-out to refill your reserve and regain your resilience and strength, and then move on with purpose, gratitude, and hope.
Find the best path through the fear and anxiety that may come during these stressful times. Be constantly aware and get the help you need at the first signs of distress. Be prepared to help and support others having emotional difficulties during the extra-ordinary demands of the present day and events. It is the time for exceptional acceptance and compassion towards oneself and others as ever-changing feelings, emotions, insecurities, and vulnerabilities challenge us.
Thank you for your interest and review of this article. You are welcome to make comments below and to share this article with others.
Ron Parks MD
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To have questions answered or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Parks, fill in the contact form at https://parksmd.com/scheduling/.
**The above is for informational and educational purposes only, not as medical or mental health advice. It is the reader’s responsibility to direct personal medical or mental health questions to their primary care provider and specialty physicians. The information and statements contained in this material are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or to replace the recommendations or advice given to you by your primary or direct care providers.
Your reliance on any information provided by Dr. Parks is solely at your discretion. You are advised not to disregard medical advice from your primary or direct care providers, or delay seeking medical advice or treatment because of information contained in this article. Management of severe mental or physical health problems should remain under the care and guidance of your primary care physicians, specialist, or psychiatrists.
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