Don’t overlook mental and emotional health

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Don’t</p><p>overlook</p><p>mental and</p><p>emotional</p><p>health</p><p>As directives from the Centers for Disease control and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office urge Californians to sequester in their homes for the next several weeks, in order to reduce threats of coronavirus outbreak, residents are acknowledging the resulting mental and emotional strain.

“This is definitely a stressful time,” said Dr. Janine Arbelaez, a mental health therapist providing online counseling through Ridgecrest Regional Hospital. “Whether we like it or not, we have a real pandemic going on.

“Having said that, what we have to keep in mind is practicing a lot of self-care. That is really what is within our control right now.”

Dr. Arbelaez said that eating nutritious foods and getting plenty of exercise are two of the most basic ways people can take care of their health. However, many fitness regimens are difficult to maintain now that gyms and other gathering places have been closed or restricted.

“You have to use your logical mind to determine what is best in the interest of you and your family,” said Dr. Arbelaez. For example, people older than 65 have been cautioned to keep indoors as much as possible.

“The great thing is there are many online platforms and television programs that are offering physical fitness training and opportunities,” she said.

For children, the CDC is recommending outside time. Running, walking or hiking in the outdoors is still permitted under self-isolation protocols, but individuals are still cautioned to maintain at least six feet of distance from those outside of their households.

Dr. Arbelaez recommended avoiding drugs and alcohol, which can exacerbate anxiety and depression. Instead, she encouraged individuals to practice yoga or meditation.

“Stay connected with your friends, family and other loved ones through FaceTime, Skype, telephone or email. Tell people how you are doing, and ask how they are doing,” she said.

“We are living in a new normal right now. Adjusting to that will take time. We need to let things unfold and be present. Protect yourself, your loved ones, and society at large.”

For families with children at home, she said that maintaining structure is particularly important. “Make sure that you have similar schedules and routines,” she said, even though children are no longer attending school.

During stressful times, children may display regressive behaviors — like bedwetting or making silly mistakes. “We want to watch for those in our children, as well as ourselves.”

Dr. Arbelaez used the example of putting on your own oxygen mask first in prioritizing care. “When you practice self-care and good management, you’re children have a positive role model to follow. If you don’t, you may pass along that unnecessary anxiety to your children.”

She noted the importance of acknowledging emotional stress.

“With physical stress, you can use your executive mind to determine if you have aches or pains or symptoms of illness. In emotional stress, the symptoms you have to watch for are excessive worry, sadness and paranoia. Are you having difficulty concentrating or staying focused? Those are signs that we have to look for in ourselves as well as in our children.”

If you need help, she said, reach out. “Ridgecrest Regional Hospital is currently offering therapy services online. There are a lot of additional resources available, if you look at rrh.org.”

Dr. Arbelaez got engaged in serving the Indian Wells Valley community following last summer’s earthquakes. She said that RRH CEO Jim Suver wanted to make sure residents had the resources they needed to manage the stress that followed two massive earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks.

“Ridgecrest is extremely lucky to have a leader like him at the hospital and in the community.

“He is thinking of the well-being of his employees as well as the population at large.”

Pictured: Therapists note that yoga and meditation are simple, yet effective, wellness practices.

Story First Published: 2020-03-27