Monday, April 27, 2020 - 4:56pm

As we continue to receive new and evolving information on COVID-19/coronavirus, many aspects of our daily work and personal routines are requiring adjustments. The unpredictability and changes in routines resulting from COVID-19 is creating stress in the workplace and with our families.

When people experience stress, we naturally want to escape it, usually by finding something that feels familiar, comforting, and routine.COVID-19 is unique because it is not only adding stress to our lives, but has also taken away predictable outlets for dealing with that stress.

Though a global pandemic does make many of our stresses and coping strategies (or lack thereof) more noticeable, it also brings out many things we do very well. For some, emergencies provide opportunities to re-examine whether the things we once found stressful are not that important. You might find that those things just do not matter quite as much these days. Although many of us are self-isolating, we are able to come together through other means - phone calls, Face Time, Zoom meetings and more are all being used creatively.

Humans are incredibly resilient. We may have helpful, harmful, or odd behaviors from time to time when we experience stress, but ultimately we have the capacity for a great deal of growth that comes after times of stress and trauma. It’s important to acknowledge that these are really difficult times, and that it’s OK if you are stressed and need extra support. It is also important to get the mental health care that you need.

This is a stressful time for families and couples. If you do not feel safe in your home, I encourage you to get help. You can learn more about domestic abuse services through Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) here and for the LatinX community, Unidos. If you are in a crisis, you can reach out to Safe Communities for support for major concerns. If you are seriously considering harming yourself though, call 9-1-1.

Here are some other options for help that I would like you to keep in mind:

• Counseling: Some counseling agencies are utilizing tele-therapy, which can feel strange, but allows you to gain the mental health support you need right from your home. Contact your health care provider to see if this is available to you.

• Support Groups: Those in recovery from an addiction often depend on the routine of their support community for sobriety. Some of these support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are now meeting online which in turn can expand your list of potential recovery support options. United Way 211 is a wonderful option with resources for anyone searching for assistance, during the pandemic and at any other time. The City of Madison has compiled an expanded list of resources that you can access here. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also has resources that may be helpful.

• Socializing: Many community programs are temporarily canceled. Those who prefer to engage in face-to-face socializing may not have that social outlet, however some community agencies are now offering virtual classes and social groups, free or donation based. For some, this could be an opportunity to try something new from the comfort of your own home. There are some excellent programs offered by Madison School & Community Recreation here. If you want to get more specific, a great option for inquiring minds is Engineering for Kids. The Madison Senior Center has some amazing opportunities for 55 and older. If you wish to safely volunteer and help others in need United Way of Dane County has some great opportunities.
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• Traveling: Some people travel away from home and work in order to manage their stress. There is no denying that a missed vacation or even a weekend trip can be a major disappointment. Due to the quarantine protocols of COVID-19, there are few opportunities for travel. In the meantime, there are opportunities for virtual travel – try this option from the Smithsonian. This site allows you to explore the world from your living room. Museums and other cultural institutions are offering online tours, or you could work on learning a new language in anticipation of a future trip.

I understand that this is a very stressful and challenging time for individuals and families. It will not last forever though. We can use this opportunity to establish new hobbies, spend quality time with our families, even if it’s not in-person, and make sure our friends and neighbors are doing ok, especially the elderly.

Stay strong and be well!

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