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Dealing with Stress and Isolation During the State Shut Down

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing stay at home order issued by Michigan Governor Whitmer have resulted in anxiety and uncertainty for the state's residents. As a society, we are used to being on the go, interacting with friends, relatives, and clubs or organizations. However, all that has come to a halt and in many cases has been replaced with virtual meetings via computer. For many, even work is being done remotely from home. Unfortunately, feelings of isolation and loneliness can creep in when one is kept indoors for too long.

Dana Lasenby, Chief Clinical Officer with Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN), formerly Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, which provides mental health services and support to adults and children. She says, "Although technology is great and we're able to talk to people and even see their faces, to be physically present with other people is important, and most of us need a lot of that." Lasenby says the challenge of staying in can be especially hard on those who are already facing personal struggles such as depression, anxiety, grief, or recovery issues. Others are finding challenges addressing basic needs in the midst of job loss. Worry about meeting financial obligations can lead to anxiety or hopelessness. Lasenby says there has been an increase in alcohol sales, which may indicate people, particularly those in recovery, are taking this shut down particularly hard. "For people who have had a path of recovery, there are a lot of people who are at home alone who don't have the support and may be relapsing," she says.

In addition, she says incidences of both suicide and domestic violence are increasing as well. "Just because people live in the same home doesn't mean that they get along well," she says, adding that getting out of the house by going to school or work has been put on hold for everyone. "Being stuck in a home with people that don't get along can be very stressful-- and traumatic for children."

Lasenby says as a remedy, families can bring out board games and puzzles, using the time to be together and talk about what's happening. She says it's also important for family members to find their own private space, whether it's a bedroom or the back patio. She adds that young children actually thrive on interacting with friends and suggests children can communicate with friends by leaving messages on the sidewalk with chalk to maintain social distancing, Letter writing can be both fun and educational. "Those are just simple things I think now, this time has forced us to think about the ways that we need to communicate and stay in contact with one another," she says.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests tackling stay at home stress by taking a break from watching the news and viewing social media, getting regular exercise, eating healthy, and even trying deep breathing or meditating.

Lasenby says making the effort to get up and get dressed each day and set one goal to accomplish can go a long way in pulling yourself out of a mental fog. Even a small task such as cleaning out a kitchen drawer or packing away winter clothing can help make you feel productive.

Sometimes, getting through a challenging time can merely mean taking a change in perspective. Lasenby says taking time to reflect on blessings and practicing gratefulness for the good things in life can help shift a sour mood, she says, adding, "I think we have to tell people that it's okay to not be okay, but how do we keep you safe?"

If you are finding the stay at home order is having a negative impact on you, DWIHN has resources to help. Its 24/7 access line is 800-241-4949. A COVID -19 information line is also available at 313-290-9333. You do not need to be a Wayne County resident to contact SWIHN, but its resources and services are catered to those in Wayne County.


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