BY BROOKE WILLIAMS
Social worker and counselor Kara Golden has noticed an increasing and understandable feeling of unsettlement among people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a webinar, ‘Coffee with Kara’ through the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce on April 2, she offered practical tips for “keeping a sound mind” during this ongoing crisis.
If you talk to others about how they’re doing lately, there’s a good chance that common responses will arise: feeling isolated, worrying about loved ones working on the frontlines, being unable to look away from the news or social media, and much more.
Golden assured that these responses, as well as heightened emotions, aren’t out of the ordinary during such a mentally taxing time.
“Feelings are normal and I would expect all of us are going to have some sense of worrying going on,” she said.
First and foremost, she encourages everyone to focus on what they can do to support themselves and what they can control.
“Take time to take care of you,” she said. “Self care is not selfish.”
Taking care of your body through eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting plenty of restorative sleep and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and other drugs is one of her No. 1 tips.
Getting grounded in nature can also make you more mindful and calm.
“Try a walk in the woods,” she said. “Listen to water by a stream and listen to birds singing in the trees.”
Connecting with others also eases feelings of isolation that many have been experiencing as they practice social distancing for the greater good. While it may not be possible to meet in person, friends and family could still communicate through phone and video calls.
Anxiety can be too much to handle alone, so Golden suggests finding a “positivity partner” who can help redirect you to a positive space. By setting a code word like “jellybeans,” you and your positivity partner can know when to step in for each other.
As the COVID-19 situation constantly develops, it can be tempting to stay glued to the news and social media for updates. While it’s important to stay informed, Golden said too much can become overwhelming.
Instead, set limits on your exposure to the media. For instance, she visits the Pennsylvania Department of Health website (health.pa.gov) once per day and sets a time limit for her daily scroll through Facebook.
“Every time you see something that upsets you, choose a calm word that will deflect your thinking and take you down another path,” she said.
Also, make time to unwind with hobbies that you enjoy. Pace yourself between stressful and fun activities.
Focusing on gratitude can also combat anxiety, fear and sadness. Think of everything in life you feel thankful for, no matter how small.
While it’s important to remember that everything will get better eventually, Golden suggests not focusing on timelines, as no one truly knows when life will return to normal.
“I would encourage you to reel that in and think about what I can do now that’s going to be useful, and not be as concerned with how long this might last,” she said.
Other tips from Golden on how to destress include mindfulness meditation, listening to your favorite music, journaling, using aromatherapy, and finding ways to laugh each day.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Support & Referral Helpline (1-855-284-2494, or 724-631-5600 for TTY) helps Pennsylvanians struggling during the pandemic and refers them to community-based resources.
“Be gentle with yourself and take good care of yourself during this time,” Golden concluded.
Golden also offers telehealth options. Call 570-760-1227 or visit karagoldencounseling.com for more information.