I hope and pray that you are well and managing the uncertainty of the times.
I follow the news about the coronavirus pretty closely. Even now writing this, I have the news on in the background. As you may know, the virus dominates every broadcast. During the day, as I work on various projects or just try to relax while reading or playing with Pearl, I find it necessary to cut the television off. Completely off. Not just the sound down…OFF!
As I work and read on the topic of suicide and mental health, the semi-isolation we are currently experiencing, both here in the US and throughout the world, reminds me of the isolation, fear, and anxiety that many survivors of suicide loss live with on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, as our levels of uncertainty climb, so does that of the survivors. Human beings tend to prefer certainty. We like to be in control. We like to be connected.
Self-care is important in facing a “new normal” that follows surviving a loss by suicide. I believe self-care is something we all should be aware of during the days ahead. Here are a few ideas I’ve run across:
· Take some time away from the news and social media, but stay connected with others by phone or email.
· Get out outside. Get some fresh air and exercise; good for both physical and mental health.
· Pay attention to and talk with your children. Reassure them and let them know that it is okay to be upset. Let them know how you are dealing with your stress and be a role model for them.
· If you live with depression or feel changes in your moods, such as anger, sadness, or helplessness, please know that you are not helpless and you can make choices, but most importantly, know that help is available.
· Choose to do things that make you feel safe: read a book, watch a funny movie, call a friend, avoid crowds (they want us to do this anyway), pray and read your Bible, spend time with your family, do something helpful for someone else, or anything you enjoy.
· Share your feelings with a trusted friend or even a mental health professional. Just talking can be comforting.
Remember our first responders and healthcare workers during this time as well. Show them your appreciation for the sacrifices they make. For them, the following thoughts may help. The work they do may be rewarding; it can also take a toll on their minds and bodies.
· Remember to take breaks. It is important to relax and recharge. It is not in your best interest or the interest of those you serve if you are too tired or too stressed. You need some down time.
· Your needs and wellbeing are vital to your ability to serve others effectively.
· Be aware of your stress and take the necessary steps to cope with it, in a way that preserves your physical and mental needs.
· Don’t neglect your nutrition and make sure to drink plenty of water.
For all of us, be aware of the signs of stress and burnout in yourself and those you love:
· Sadness, depression, or apathy
· Frustration (especially changes toward more easily becoming frustrated)
· Poor hygiene
· Feelings of excess exhaustion or other physical signs
· Feelings of being overwhelmed, worry, fear
· Feelings of inadequacy or failure
· Turning to alcohol or drugs to cope
· Being easily startled or experiencing paranoia
· Nightmares or recurring thoughts of trauma
You all know I am not a doctor or a therapist. The above suggestions and indicators are the result of various items I have seen and read in preparing for our work to assist survivors of suicide loss. Much of the information was taken from notes I made from articles in The Weekly Spark, an online publication of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Some of these are a result of our living through the experience.
The weeks immediately prior to the major actions taken here in the US to fight the virus saw some very positive movement in our mission at Left At The Gate. I look forward to sharing more on these developments and our other plans over the next days and weeks. We appreciate your support and are continuing to progress, despite the difficulties presented by the coronavirus.
(Don’t forget to wash your hands often and practice social distancing.)