Nystrom & Associates Ltd. offered mental health tips Wednesday, April 29, for those who are isolated and some relaxation tools from one of its clinicians during its first streamed event.
“It’s OK to not be OK right now. All of us are in various levels of adjusting to this new normal — exhaustion, fatigue, the uncertainty, the isolation,” said Sarah Gross of Nystrom & Associates.
Gross, a licensed clinical social worker, answered Facebook users’ submitted questions during the live event “Staying Mentally Healthy During COVID-19.”
“There’s sort of just this buzz of anxiety in the culture right now. … And even though that’s all true, at the end of the day we still have to function. And we want to try to get through this functioning as skillfully and as vitally as we can,” Gross said during the livestreamed event.
The 30-minute recorded video organized by Nystrom & Associates is available on the mental health clinic’s Facebook page. It has been viewed more than 2,600 times as of Wednesday afternoon.
“One of the things I’ve noticed in people I’m talking to is they feel like they ‘should be doing XYZ’ and they’re not, and they’re feeling like a failure. And so one of the things I would just recommend is to be careful with the ‘shoulds,’” Gross advised during the Facebook Live event.
The latest poll from Pew Research Center shows 71% of Americans say they need to take breaks from news about the coronavirus, and 43% say the news leaves them feeling worse emotionally.
“We’re all struggling. Emotions, really, are physical events more than anything. And so the self-care ideas help us kind of be well in our body and manage all of this,” said Gross, a behavioral therapist.
Sarah Gross, a licensed independent clinical social worker, is the executive director of the dialectical behavior therapy program at Nystrom & Associates Ltd. Submitted photo / Nystrom & Associates Ltd.
Gross recommended getting enough sleep and exercise, venturing outdoors, healthy eating, and socializing with others responsibly as some self-care tips for feeling better about one’s self.
“And some sort of fun and play because life kind of is rough right now, so doing stuff that’s fun and playful and just makes you laugh and like the beauty of the moment, just trying to incorporate those things (in your life),” Gross told the more than 150 who watched her live.
Gross demonstrated some mindfulness and gratitude techniques, such as deep breathing, meditating and holding her hand over her heart while reminding herself what she should be appreciative of instead of focusing on the negative.
“We need touch and many people aren’t getting that, hugs or handshakes or any of that. If you touch yourself, like, kind of rub your arms or give yourself a hug, whatever, your body doesn’t know that’s different than if it were from someone else,” Gross said of physical contact.
Robert Devereux is the director of outreach at Nystrom & Associates. He sat by Gross and relayed Facebook users’ questions as they were posted on the social media platform.
“Somebody said with all the uncertainty there, they’re having a hard time sleeping as well,” Devereux told Gross. “What are some tips for you as far as getting better sleep if I wake up in the middle of the night, and I can’t fall back asleep?”
Gross replied, “Pretty much everyone I’m talking to right now, including myself, is having some sleep issues, either not being able to fall asleep, not being able to stay asleep or really weird dreams and nightmares.”
Gross recommended limiting screen time and not eating hours before going to bed, and even immersing one’s face in cold water or splashing it to regulate the nervous system before talking about self-compassion and mindfulness, which is about living in the moment.
“I love the expression that somebody told me once: It’s hard to be happy when somebody is mean to you all the time, especially if that person is you,” Devereux said.
Gross said of self-compassion, “It’s good for your health, your mental health, your relationships. It releases oxytocin, which makes you feel bonded and connected to people.
Loss and mindfulness were the final two topics discussed Wednesday during the Facebook Live event. Nystrom & Associates plan to have more weekly Facebook Live events.
“Whatever those losses are — missed birthday parties, anniversaries, going to restaurants community things, deaths, jobs, illness, all of those things … it’s really important that we acknowledge those losses and really feel it to heal it,” Gross said.
Wellness in the Woods is a local nonprofit also promoting wellness relating to physical, emotional, vocational, social, spiritual, intellectual, environmental and financial factors.
Its mission is “to help connect those who are struggling with mental health concerns, anxiety, social isolation or any other uneasiness throughout this time to community resources.”
“When faced with the decision to either cancel their monthly offerings for peer support networking taking place across the region in person or providing an alternative virtual offering, they did just that,” Executive Director Jode Freyholtz-London stated in a news release.
People can log into a Zoom meeting organized by the nonprofit, or call into it, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily to connect with others, share stories, learn a new skill or practice a resiliency building technique. Visit mnwitw.org and click on the VPSN picture to get connected.
Cabin fever, the fear of becoming infected, grieving those lost due to the respiratory illness, and anxiety about the economy and job loss during the pandemic weighs heavily on many minds.
“If you are feeling isolated, depressed, anxious or just need someone to talk to, and it’s from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m., Wellness in the Woods is also offering their statewide WARMLINE for your support,” Freyholtz-London said of the phone number, which is 844-739-6369.