In the midst of this pandemic, you may be wondering what exactly social distancing is and what to expect over the next couple of months as we abide by the new Stay-At-Home order. Well, you’re in luck! Freedom Support Services is here to answer all of your questions regarding social distancing as well as to give you a heads up of what you can expect in relation to your mental health. Don’t worry, in following weeks we’ll also be discussing ways to cope and how you can maintain a healthy lifestyle while abiding by the rules. Remember, flattening the viral curve is extremely important but…so is your mental health.
The CDC has defined social distancing as “keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home.” It’s a way to limit face-to-face contact with your peers in hopes of reducing transmission of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The CDC indicates that one can practice social distancing by:
Staying at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people,
Not gathering in groups larger than 10, and
Staying out of crowded places / avoiding mass gatherings as much as possible.
If you’d like more information on social distancing, it’s purpose, or what do to if you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, check out the CDC’s section on the Coronavirus here.
On Monday, March 20th, 2020, Governor Northam issued a Stay-At-Home order for the state of Virginia. What exactly is a stay-at-home order? According to the Office of the Governor, it’s an executive order directing all Virginians “to stay home except in extremely limited circumstances. Individuals may leave their residence for allowable travel, including to seek medical attention, work, care for family or household members, obtain goods and services like groceries, prescriptions, and others as outlined in Executive Order Fifty-Three, and engage in outdoor activity with strict social distancing requirements.” The order is in effect until June 10, 2020. If you’d like to read more detail about this order or Executive Order Fifty-Three, click here.
With that being said, what should you expect going forward? Does this mean that you won’t get to engage in the services with your providers like you were before? Here are some facts to ease your mind:
1. Mental Health providers are considered essential workers. That means that regardless of what’s happening, your provider will more than likely still be working depending on the policies and procedures for that particular company.
2. Many providers are switching over to Telehealth services. They are using video and phone conference materials such as Facetime, Cisco WebEx Meetings, Zoom, and Loom just to name a few. This way, providers can still meet with their clients face-to-face while maintaining social distance requirements. Freedom Support Services uses Telehealth powered by SimplePractice. We have been using SimplePractice and its software far before the start of the pandemic so you can rest assured that the software is HIPAA-compliant and confidential.
3. Your local medical and health departments, clinics, grocery stores, etc. have developed and implemented policies and procedures directly in response to COVID-19. For example, your provider may have already begun screening all visitors using practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Numerous departments have also provided their personal with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, etc.
Freedom Support Services is still allowing face-to-face individual sessions in which you can meet with your counselor in our office as our rooms are big enough to implement the 6 feet rule. However, if you’re feeling sick, we ask that you stay at home and meet with us via Telehealth or reschedule your appointment at least 24 hours in advance. Don’t forget, if you’re experiencing any of the COVID-19 symptoms let your Primary Care Physician know and go to your closest hospital for testing.
What about your mental health and emotional response? What has been the “normal” reaction to such a change in how we conduct our daily lives and move about in the world? Who’s at risk for heightened chances of decompensation or experiencing triggers? Here is a list of some of the responses we have noticed since the start of this pandemic:
Fear – you may be afraid to go outside or be around loved ones due to chances of spreading or catching the virus.
Anxiety – you may experience anxiety or excessive worry surrounding yours or a loved one’s chance of catching the virus, especially if you / your loved one are considered “at-risk.” You may also experience increased anxiety when entering certain locations such as hospitals or grocery stores as these places are essential and experience heavy traffic.
Isolation – Due to not being able to see your friends, family, coworkers and/or mental health providers as often as you use to or in person, you may inadvertently start to isolate, confining yourself to your bedroom because you aren’t allowed to go out.
Irritability – Since you can’t go out as often as you used to, you may become frustrated as you feel a loss of agency and or the freedom you once had.
Depression – Extended periods of time spent at home away from your normal day to day activities and interactions can cause an increase in depressed mood, sadness, or boredom.
Stigmatization – If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or have tested positive for the virus, you may feel stigmatized as the media reports you as presumed positive or positive case and others fear interaction with you due to the possibility of catching the virus.
Flashbacks (PTSD) – The fear and anxiety associated with this pandemic may bring back unpleasant memories for those who suffer from PTSD or who have recently experienced trauma/catastrophe in their lives.
Those who suffer from mental illness are likely to have many of these symptoms and responses increase during this time. Talk to your mental health provider about what you can do to maintain your well-being. Even if you don’t suffer from mental illness, there’s still a chance you can start to develop these symptoms during this time. Reach out to a mental health provider like Freedom Support Services to discuss your options.
If you’re already in services or you’re just looking for effective ways to cope while maintaining social distancing, join us next week for next section, “Social Distancing: How to Cope” and remember, flattening the viral curve is extremely important but so is your mental health. See you next week!
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