By Vanessa Park
The unknown. It’s hard for everyone. When we experience something entirely new, or face uncertain consequences, we get scared. It is important to acknowledge that this is a scary time.
But it is also important to remember that, unlike other unknowns we humans face in our lives, this one we face together—along with the entire planet.
That fact gives me great comfort. Everyone out there in the world, whether it’s on Nantucket or in Japan, Tanzania, or Pittsburgh, is wondering the same things I am—more or less. What will happen? Will I be okay? Will my loved ones be safe?
Of course, some are more vulnerable. There are numerous ways that this situation hits those people harder than others. From health concerns to fears about job security, we all understand the challenges faced by so many on our island.
If you are experiencing anxiety, worry, depression, or fear related to isolation and other impacts of Covid-19, there are things you can, and should, do to help yourself. If others rely on you for care or support, be sure you take care of yourself first so that you can help them.
First and foremost, remember that Fairwinds is always here for you. The agency is continuing all services via phone or computer. If you are concerned about your mental health or substance use, call to make an appointment with a therapist or Peer Recovery Coach. If you have an urgent need to speak to someone and can’t wait for an appointment, call between 5 and 6 p.m. M-F and a clinician from the Urgent Behavioral Healthcare Clinic will call you right back for a free phone session (first come-first served). 508-228-2689.
As we all practice social distancing to protect our neighbors and ourselves, remember a few simple things.
Go outside. This does not mean convene in a crowd, but we are fortunate on the island to have countless, beautiful open spaces. Breathe deeply of the clean Nantucket air on an inland trail or beach. The days are longer, giving us more opportunities to get outside.
Exercise. Stretch and exercise your body for health and to release endorphins which combat depression and anxiety. You can’t go to the gym, but there are many online exercise classes popping up. A simple open air 30-minute walk is a great daily routine. Or you can turn the music up and dance around your apartment or house!
Listen to music. Music is a proven mood elevator. Don’t underestimate its power.
Use technology to connect. Whether you FaceTime or Skype, or just pick up a regular phone, remember to stay close, if not physically, to the people you care about and who care about you. Human connection is important. If you know of anyone who is isolated and has no one to connect with, you can reach out with a phone call to say, “How are you doing?”
Stay in touch with your faith-based group. Many churches are making concerted efforts to keep their parishioners connected with one another. Reach out to your priest or minister to find out how you can help or be helped during a potentially lonely time.
Meditate or pray. If neither of these words has particular meaning to you, simply spend time relaxing your body and mind. Sit upright and at ease in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes, take deep breaths through your nose, exhaling slowly through your mouth. Do that for 3 minutes and notice a difference in your body. You can increase as you feel comfortable. If you are an app person, check out some great meditation apps like Headspace or Daily Calm.
Ground yourself. This can be done by standing barefoot on Mother Earth but can be also be done anywhere and at any time with these simple steps: Look around you. Find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This can help you when you feel you have lost control of your surroundings or are feeling anxious and off balance.
Focus on gratitude. Write down or share with family the things you are most grateful for every day. Gratitude has been proven to improve mental and physical health and it feels good too.
Be kinder than necessary. I heard someone say that the other day and it made perfect sense. From what I can see, most people are doing just that. When in doubt, be kind. (Not by putting yourself at risk, of course.)
Set limits on your social media use. Social media is a great way to keep up with friends and family when you feel isolated and uneasy. But be careful not to read posts that spread unfounded information and serve not to educate but to alarm. If you find you feel worse after a session on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, stay away for a while.
Call the island’s mobile crisis unit. If things are really bad, don’t hesitate to call (877) 784-6273, 24 hours a day and someone will respond. Or you can always call 911.
Feeling alone and isolated is difficult. So is cabin fever—which happens when a family of five is suddenly at home 24/7. If you notice feelings of anxiety or depression escalating, seek help.
You are not alone. We are all in this together.
Vanessa Park is Fairwinds’ Advancement Director, charged with overseeing development, marketing, communications, and outreach programs. She moved to Nantucket from New York in February of 2019 to join a remarkable team of professionals at an agency that inspired her. Though she is a writer, fundraiser, and bridge-builder—not a clinician—her passion for mental health and community support is lifelong.