As states begin easing some of the stay-at-home orders put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, people who are high-risk of exposure to the coronavirus are still urged to remain safely at home and to take continued precautions to distance themselves from anyone who may have been exposed to the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also encouraging people who are high-risk – like people living with ALS – to manage the increased stress that comes with this time of isolation – including finding ways to regularly connect with others, limit news consumption, and unwind when anxious feelings are looming.
We talked to Tara Dhakal, LMSW, a Care Services Specialist at the Mid-America Chapter of the ALS Association, an expert who helps people with ALS find ways to cope with the disease. Tara helped put together a stress management guide to help you cope and manage the complicated feelings you may be experiencing.
Stay connected. We’ve already been told to social distance ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see people and continue to have connections. Thanks to technology, we are presented with many ways to stay connected with loved ones. These days our phones are used for far more than simply a phone call. We can see each other and have conversations. We can visit with longtime friends to share pictures and jokes or just to see how they are doing. We can read books to our grandkids, help kids with their schoolwork and even give instructions on how to properly create an iced coffee mousse (have you seen this new trend? It’s called a Dalgona and it’s delicious. Check it out!) So, stay connected with people you care about. Just be sure you do so at a distance, for now anyway. Remember, social distance does not mean social isolation.
Limit news consumption. News is important to stay informed and up to date but it’s not necessary to spend a lot of time reading or watching the news. Be sure you are following a reputable news source and then limit the amount of time this occupies you. Part of connecting with others is getting on social media to keep up with those you don’t talk to often. For many it can also be a means to get your news and stay informed. This has a lot of positives but can also be distressing. That’s why “social media distancing” should be considered. If you find yourself feeling more distressed after scrolling through Facebook, that may indicate a need to limit your time online or turn off notifications to various news outlets and focus only on the lighter side. Funny cat videos are always okay but unfortunately that is not always what we see online.
Be aware of your feelings. There has been a sudden and rapid change in our normal day to day lives. So much so that it can cause uneasy feelings of worry, stress, loss, sadness, anxiety and even grief. We are wired to be alert to any threat and this jumble of letters and numbers, COVID-19, is most certainly a threat. For those who are young-ish and somewhat healthy the fear is still there, but in a different way. If you are a person with ALS or someone caring for a person for ALS, the fear can be stronger. It can feel scary. Allow yourself to feel even the negative emotions. Name it, own it, talk about it, walk through it. It’s a feeling that your body is producing, and it requires motion to move through your body. Don’t ignore it.
Get outside. Spring is here! The weather is changing. Get outside if you can. Walk or wheel around your neighborhood. Kids are sticking construction paper hearts on their doors, stuffed teddy bears in their windows and positive chalk messages on the sidewalk. Look for them and feel the kindness that exists in this world.
Practice gratitude. It allows you to be mindful, focus on the present, and appreciate the good things in your life. Consider a gratitude journal, notice the beauty in nature every day, smile more often. When you smile, endorphins are sent to your brain that tell you that you’re happy! Send a note to your healthcare workers to let them know how thankful you are for their service during these trying times. Show gratitude to yourself by practicing meditation and allowing yourself to think about a quality you possess that you are proud of. Did you know that grateful people have healthier hearts?
If you are struggling during this time or have any concerns, remember we are here to support you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your Care Services Specialist.
To find a Care Services Specialist at a Chapter near you, visit our website at als.org.