COVID-19 has impacted everyone, seemingly overnight. From working from home, to homeschooling, to losing employment or wages, life has changed. To make these challenges more difficult, public places are closed and we are left with no place to go. It’s normal to feel stuck, alone, and isolated.
Albany County Prevention, and the University of Wyoming AWARE Program, understand that in difficult times like this our stress systems are activated, some of our coping strategies have been taken from us, and our social support is limited. Even as we write this we find it difficult as we are also struggling with the same things. It is important to make self-care a priority to help keep from slipping into past negative habits, losing our self-control, or hurting ourselves or those around us. We want to ensure that our community is able to come together during this quarantine period.
It is important to remember our shared humanity during a time of crisis like this. We can try to take solace in the simple fact that there are other people who feel the same way we feel, and who are facing similar struggles as ourselves. One thing we can do as a community is to acknowledge that these are extremely difficult times for everyone. We need to recognize that it isn’t just our community that is struggling, but we are struggling as individuals as well.
We have a choice about how to respond in a situation like this. There are people who want to hear your struggles, because they are feeling similarly to what you’re feeling. If we can knock down the walls of uncomfortable communication, we could save a life. The suicide rate has increased all across the country, and unfortunately our community is not immune. This is a time to check in with your family, friends, and neighbors. More importantly, this is a time to check in with yourself. It is OK to ask for help. Showing your vulnerability can open the door to someone else reaching out for help as well. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal ideation or a mental health crisis please reach out to one of the 24 hour crisis lines (Ivinson Memorial Hospital Behavioral Health at 307-742-0285 or National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255. Additional resources for suicidal ideation and mental health crisis can be found in the resources section).
As a community we can build up our resilience in a time of stress through relationships and maintaining a sense of control. Relationships are essential for healing and for our community to come out of this together. One may wonder what this looks like or how we can get a sense of control or have relationships during this COVID-19 experience.
In times like this we may need to get creative on how we reach out to our support systems, one way may include Video Chats (FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook, Google Hangouts, Google Duo, ect). One can play games via these platforms, and catch up with loved ones. It may feel weird or awkward at first and that is OK.
You can also enhance your relationships with those living in the same house. If you live with others it may seem hard to communicate with them or you may not know where to start. One can look up conversation starters online or purchase the Loaded Question game (a Family Conversation Starter can be found in resources). For those in a significant relationship, Dr. Gottman has an app called Gottman Card Decks to help start conversations and communicate with your partners, as well as enhancing intimacy. Important aspects of communication with loved ones include being honest and vulnerable with people you trust about how you are doing, and remembering you aren’t doing this alone. We are all in this together.
In a time where there seems to be no control, remember you do have some control over your situation. Focusing on what control you do have can help, this may look different for everyone. This can look like working out from home, going out for a walk or choosing what you wear.
Finally, try to create a consistent schedule. It doesn’t have to be anything intensive, just anything to create routine and consistency in your life including consistent sleeping patterns. You have the control of your schedule. Create times when you would like to wake up, schedule days/ times to get outside or exercise. Recovery may feel especially difficult when a structured routine is disrupted, particularly if that routine included regular meetings. While there are some ways to establish a new routine as mentioned above, regular meetings need not be excluded! There is information available about local AA chapter meetings at alcoholicsanonymous.com. There is also information about online meetings at www.onlinegroupaa.org.
Finally, we have attached some resources and alternative activities to try out. Keep in mind that the resources listed are limited to the knowledge of the writers. One of the best ways to learn about, and stay up-to-date on relevant local resources is going to be to talk with the people you know. Taking the time to cultivate and maintain connections with others through shared interests and experiences is a great way to learn about local events and resources, and to share in our common human experience. The writers do not endorse any of the events or resources listed, but merely wanted to compile as many resources as reasonable.
Susy Lawler, MS, PPC
Albany County Prevention Specialist
Kailyn Cook, MPA
Albany County Prevention Specialist
Jason M. Svare, MS, PPC
AWARE Program Coordinator