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Give Yourself The Gift Of Self-Care

Media Contact: Pam Klosowski
December 18, 2020

Give Yourself The Gift Of Self-Care

POTSDAM, NY – Just as 2020 has been an unprecedented year, the holiday season will most likely be different for us as well. Stress during this time of year is apparent every year, but the pandemic has tossed in several more factors that may have some of us reeling.

Members of St. Lawrence Health’s (SLHS) Behavioral Health, and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) teams have some good advice and tools to use for getting through the December holidays and New Year. SLHS also has a 24/7 Emotional Support Line for anyone to call who needs help: (315) 261-5395.

“Try and find as much compassion as you can for yourself and others. The COVID pandemic has been an unprecedented time for everyone.  We have all had to adjust to change and unknown futures which is really hard. Self-care is so important right now as we all need take care of ourselves so we can be well emotionally, physically, and mentally,” noted Inpatient Director of Rehabilitation at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, and Inpatient Director of Detoxification at Gouverneur Hospital Emily Marquart, CASACT-T, NCC. “I think it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we are all doing the best we can during these challenging times.”

Many people will not be able to spend the holidays with the friends and family members who are traditionally part of their celebration. In such cases, the holiday can still be special.

“It might be helpful to reflect on traditions, recipes, music, and movies that you can still incorporate into your holiday this year to make it special.  For many of us, things are different but we still have lots to be grateful for, and reflecting on these things can help to make the holidays meaningful,” Ms. Marquart said.

December holidays are typically associated with gift giving, and this year the simplest of gifts may mean even more if being with some of those people isn’t physically possible.

“A homemade gift that represents your love, or a thoughtful message in a card is a great way to let your loved ones know you care. A phone call to reconnect or ‘Zoom time’ can also be meaningful alternatives during the holidays,” noted SLHS Director of Behavioral Health Jayme Smith, PsyD.

Just because we may not be able to physically be in the same room as our loved ones, doesn’t mean we can’t be social with them. There are several options available to helping everyone stay connected and not feeling isolated.

“If accessing online groups, meetings, webinars, chats, classes, appointments, etcetera, is an option for you, I recommend exploring these virtual avenues.  Thinking outside the box and getting creative with finding meaningful ways to spend your time is encouraged,” Dr. Smith said. “This is also an excellent time to try new things, maybe new hobbies, recipes, exercises, anything you enjoy - and sharing the activities on the phone or virtually with loved ones can be a fun way to connect.”

Simply seeing the increase in coronavirus cases in our local communities and throughout the North Country may have many people feeling anxious and overwhelmed. There are five tools that can prove extremely helpful throughout the pandemic, and life in general.

Provide a sense of predictability and control by developing a routine of scheduled events and activities. Write the plan down and adjust it in the coming weeks. Down time and relaxation are especially important in self-care, as is being compassionate and realistic with ourselves.

Experience physical release by moving. “Our bodies are impacted by and retain the effects of stress and traumatic events. We need outlets and ways to release this tension and remove the effects it has on our physical and mental well-being,” Ms. Marquart said.

Developing strategies to help regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors can lower anxiety and stress.

“Start by acknowledging, accepting, and giving yourself permission to experience a range of emotions.  There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ emotions, but we can seek ways to manage and direct those emotions to improve our mental health,” Ms. Marquart added. “Maintain or reclaim your identity; roles and tasks may have shifted, so reconnect your actions with your values and skills.”

 Maintain connections by staying in touch with friends and family. Be open to accepting help and support from them, and when possible, support them with a smile, time, or by lending an ear.

“Allow your interactions to be real!,” Dr. Smith exclaimed. “Responses from laughter to tears, and other emotions are totally acceptable and important to experience and process.

Mindfulness is the final tool,” she added. “Although it may seem like time is moving either very fast or very slow (or maybe you have lost sense of it altogether), try not to ‘time travel’ by getting stuck too far in the past or future. Pause throughout the day to observe and honor sensations, emotions, and thoughts; and limit activities that are dissociating, mind-numbing, and potentially addictive.”

Director of Outpatient Substance Use Disorder Services Emma Bracket, LCSW, CASAC acknowledged that having a job which require people to be in direct contact with others, or working in a frontline career can also be very stressful during these current times. When a feeling of being overwhelmed settles in, they should remember the word CALM (Connect, Acknowledge, Loving, Meaning).

Connect with the moment - feel your feet on the floor, put your hand on your heart, and breathe in and out.

Acknowledge your feelings - fear, anger, guilt, and anxiety are all normal to feel right now. Think Loving kindness by coming up with a kind thought or mantra you can say to yourself right now. Remember to reflect on the purpose and Meaning of your work,” Ms. Brackett said.

View videos created by SLHS Director of Outpatient Psychiatric Services Laurie Zweifel, PhD, various ways to cope during COVID-19.