Volume No. 17 Issue No. 5 May 2020  

  Coping with COVID-19

     Kathi Kennedy is a registered licensed psychotherapist from Peyton. She owns Kennedy Counseling and is offering free 20-minute online counseling sessions during the coronavirus shutdown.
   “I am very community oriented, and people are laid off and don’t have an income,” Kennedy said. “Counselors are expensive and this is not a time to spend money when you need help. People are hurting and that’s what I’m here for. People need help with coping skills and making sure they’re finding accurate resources.”
   Kennedy said people are facing many fears and anxieties such as loneliness, health and safety and economic displacement. People feel powerless when they can’t call the shots, Kennedy said. “Not having control over something is a major cause of stress and anxiety on a normal day, and these clearly are not normal days.”
   Acknowledging feelings is important, and journaling is a great way to express those feelings. Kennedy said write freely and openly, don’t hold back. Include a list of at least three things for the “I am grateful” category.
   Set boundaries on news and media consumption, Kennedy said. Watch or read the news once a day to stay up-to-date on the current situation or ask others to watch and relay just the necessities. And make sure the information is accurate; take time to double check sources and facts.
   Self-care is important in high-stress times, Kennedy said. Eat nutritious food; this is a good time to learn more about nutrition. Try to exercise for 30 minutes a day, which releases endorphins (feel-good hormones) dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Those endorphins are critical in managing stress and depression. Create a vision board; this is also a good time to dream and create new goals — plan for the future, she said.
   As social beings, social distancing does not necessarily equate to isolation. Kennedy said people can adjust and reframe connections with others. Consider hosting a virtual gathering, call old friends, relatives you miss, family or neighbors and catch up with them; make business calls to stay in touch with clients, she said.
   And be aware of warning signs of depression and suicide. Suicidal thoughts often come from a feeling of hopelessness and the inability to see solutions in a temporary situation. If you are thinking of suicide or suspect that someone is, act immediately and reach out for help.
   “We will emerge into society again, and we will regain our sense of safety; this situation will end,” Kennedy said. “We can learn great lessons from this and hopefully gain an attitude of gratitude for the simple things we have and do. In the meantime, reach out for help if needed. Remember, this is a temporary situation; it will pass, and we will be okay.”
   Rev. Roger Butts teaches Centering Prayer at Black Forest Community Church and is a chaplain at Penrose Hospital. He said physical distancing is causing all kinds of heartache and stress. “We are a month in, and things are really hard,” Butts said. “Somehow we know this will come to an end, but we are in the ‘meanwhile’ right now.” He said making the most of a difficult time like this means focusing on the intimate and ultimate, the near at hand and the transcendent.
   Butts explained. The near at hand means to take advantage of the idea of proximity. If someone lives with a partner or spouse, get to know that person in a deeper way. Ask open-ended questions. If living with a child, spend time with them and find out what they are thinking and talking about. “My 13-year-old said to me the other day, ‘What if the world ends? Dogs don’t know anything and they won’t be ready.’ She has serious things on her mind, and that is a conversation that must not be missed,” Butts said.
   Regarding the transcendent and the ultimate, he said, “I’d be lost without my practice of Centering Prayer. My friend who is a Buddhist teacher at the Air Force Academy would be lost without his practice of meditation.” In this time especially, creating silence is important.
   Butts said the small voice within all of creation is waiting to be heard, but it can’t be heard above the din of constant, “Too Hot to Handle” or “Friends” reruns. Carve out some time for silence and meditation; pick a time every day and sit silently for five minutes, say the rosary or the Lord’s Prayer or recite a favorite Psalm and see what emerges, he said.
   Find Kathi Kennedy at Kennedy Counseling: http://kennedycounsel.com
   Pikes Peak Mental Health: 719-635-7000
   Suicide Prevention Partnership Pikes Peak Region Hotline: 719-596-5433
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