OSWEGO COUNTY – The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people feeling anxious or stressed. While this may be a new coronavirus, there are some time-tested mental health practices that everyone can use to help reduce overwhelming worry.
“Anxiety is a normal response to a stressful situation and can provide adaptive benefits in many situations,” said Nicole Kolmsee, director of community services, Oswego County Department of Social Services Division of Mental Hygiene. “However, when faced with mounting uncertainty, your brain can go into an anxiety spiral that is no longer helpful. Monitoring your stress level will let you know when you need to seek additional help.”
The Oswego County Department of Social Services Mental Hygiene Division has posted a list of tips for alleviating anxiety. They include:
- Manage the flow of information: choose a few trusted news outlets such as state (www.ny.gov) and county (www.health.oswegocounty.com/covid-19) health officials and/or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) and commit to only checking once or twice a day for updates.
- Practice good self-care: eat healthy foods, get enough sleep and exercise regularly – outside if possible.
- Reach out to support networks: call or email family, friends, colleagues, faith-based communities and social organizations to strengthen your overall feeling of connection.
- Find ways to help and be involved: coordinate grocery deliveries to those unable to leave the house, provide ideas for kids’ activities to parents working from home, call those who might be feeling socially isolated or offer to make items at home that might be needed in your community.
- Savor small positive moments: amplify positive stories, stay optimistic, write in a gratitude journal or share favorite highlights of the day with your family.
- Find or create spaces not focused on COVID-19: watch your favorite movie or TV show, ask friends to talk about other topics or start a social media thread with former classmates to catch up on their lives.
- Practice mindful meditation: use techniques such as grounding exercises, sensory modulation and deep breathing.
Kolmsee added, “Knowing the difference between typical and atypical stress is important. Typical stress indicators include temporary difficulty concentrating or sleeping, irritability, anger, fatigue and stomach-ache. Atypical stress reactions include a persistent and/or excessive worry that doesn’t go away and keeps you from doing your daily tasks. There may be significant changes in your energy level and eating and sleeping habits. You may have trouble concentrating on normal tasks, feel prolonged and overwhelming worry and hopelessness, or have thoughts of self-injury or suicide.”
If you or someone you know are having thoughts of self-injury or suicide, please seek help immediately. Call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text the word “CONNECT” to 741741. These are 24/7 crisis phone and text lines.
Oswego Health and Liberty Resources have organized multiple mobile crisis teams to respond to urgent situations. Teams are available from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and from 6 a.m. on Saturday through midnight on Sunday. The teams may include nurses, social workers, peer specialists and psychiatrists. They can provide mental health services by phone and in individual home settings, depending on the need. Call Crisis Connects at 315-251-0800 to request a team.
In addition, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts Facebook Live events every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. for anyone who wants to join. “Coffee and Chat” events share messages of hope, ways to connect, self-care strategies and much-needed humor to help get through trying times such as this.
Kolmsee added, “Local behavioral health provider agencies and their dedicated and caring staff are working quickly to adapt and employ alternative methods to stay connected and deliver essential services and supports to their clientele. Oswego County appreciates every effort they are making to maintain treatment and support services for our residents who were working to manage significant challenges prior to this crisis.”
Oswego Health’s Outpatient Mental Health and Farnham’s Outpatient Substance Abuse clinics are open and accepting new referrals at this time. Services and intakes are primarily by telephone with a minimal presence on-site. If you need these essential services, please do not hesitate to call 315-326-4100 for Oswego Health or 315-342-4489 for Farnham.
“Now more than ever, Oswego Health wants the community to know we are here to help in any way we can,” said Dr. Colon, chief medical director of Oswego Health Behavior Health Services. “In addition to following physical precautionary guidelines, people need to take care of their psychological well-being. Isolation and loneliness feed anxiety; as does continuously watching the news or scrolling through social media. Mindfulness tools can be very helpful for managing stress. Another tactic is to channel your anxiety into ‘good works.’ Supporting others is beneficial to the supporter as well.”
A host of other service agencies are available to those who may be struggling with typical anxiety in this uncertain situation.
Catholic Charities has launched a “Warm Line” to help people feel connected and supported. Call 315-598-3980, press “0” for operator and ask for the “Warm Line” to chat with a staff member. This is not a crisis or emergency line. It is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday only. Callers will also be asked health screening, and basic and urgent needs questions and receive direction about other available resources.
Those who have other basic or urgent needs will be asked health screening and needs questions to best direct callers to the appropriate resources.
Liberty Resources also offers an “Adult Peer Warm Line” at 1-855-778-1900. It is a non-emergency resource that is available 24/7. This mental health peer-to-peer phone support line is for adults aged 18 and older and offers mutual conversations with a trained peer specialist who has life experience with mental health recovery.
Oswego County Opportunities’ Services to Aid Families (SAF) provides a 24/7 crisis hotline to assess the needs and safety of individuals and families fleeing homelessness as a result of domestic violence. Anyone in need is encouraged to call 315-342-1600.
A veterans’ peer support call group also launched recently. It is held at 1 p.m. every day. Any veteran needing support through this challenging period is encouraged to call 1-800-767-1750 x99873.
The New York State COVID-19 Emotional Helpline is available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Call 1-844-863-9314.
Oswego County Opportunities is providing updated information about food resources. To learn more, call the hotline at 1-877-342-7618 or go to www.oco.org.
For additional, or more specific, resources, dial 211. This hotline connects people with services in central and northern New York.
For more information about emotional supports, call the Oswego County Department of Social Services Division of Mental Hygiene at 315-963-5361 Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For a full list of resources, go to www.oswegocounty.com/mentalhygiene. The status of service providers may change frequently right now; however, the website is updated daily.
Another way to help reduce anxiety is to reduce your risk of infection. Practice good personal hygiene and cleaning practices. Exercise social distancing and avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home if possible.
For more information about coronavirus, visit the Oswego County Health Department at health.oswegocounty.com/covid-19. Additional questions can be directed to the NYS COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-364-3065 or the Oswego County Health Department COVID-19 hotline at 315-349-3330.