Managing Anxiety and Worry Around COVID-19

Have you noticed your anxiety levels rising around the COVID-19 outbreak?

Do you find yourself worrying about what the illness means for you, your family and your friends?

Are you struggling to adapt to the ever-changing news stories, event cancellations and economic fluctuations?

You’re not alone. We’re all in this situation together: sharing the same worries.

The American Psychological Association has recently offered some strategies for managing the inevitable stress and fear that arises in situations like these where there are so many unknowns. Check them out:

Five Ways to View Coverage of the Coronavirus

Corona Virus

Tips

New reports about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, becoming more widespread are making some people anxious. Here are some tips to help you manage your anxiety, put news reports in perspective and maintain a positive outlook.

  1. Keep things in perspective. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the number of confirmed infections in the U.S. is extremely low. The fact that there is a great deal of news coverage on this issue does not necessarily mean that it presents any threat to you or your family.
  2. Get the facts. It is helpful to adopt a more clinical and curious approach as you follow news reports about the virus. To that end, you will want to find a credible source you can trust. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a webpage dedicated to information on the coronavirus outbreak. You may also find useful information from local or state public health agencies or even your family physician.
  3. Communicate with your children.  Discuss the news coverage of the coronavirus with honest and age-appropriate information. Parents can also help allay distress by focusing children on routines and schedules. Remember that children will observe your behaviors and emotions for cues on how to manage their own feelings during this time.
  4. Keep connected.  Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. Feel free to share useful information you find on governmental websites with your friends and family. It will help them deal with their own anxiety.
  5. Seek additional help.  Individuals who feel an overwhelming nervousness, a lingering sadness, or other prolonged reactions that adversely affect their job performance or interpersonal relationships should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers can help people deal with extreme stress. These professionals work with individuals to help them find constructive ways to manage adversity.

For more ideas about coping with the emotional toll of COVID-19, check out the American Psychological Association’s Help Center.

Gun Ownership, Suicide and Safety

I recently saw this wonderful, sensitive and informative video clip created by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment about firearms and suicide in this state. CDPHE partnered with Jimmy Graham, a firearms instructor at Centennial Gun Club to provide some tips and strategies for keeping guns out of the hands of folks considering suicide.

Some important points brought up in the video:

  • Colorado is consistently ranked in the top 10 states in terms of deaths by suicide
  • Suicidal crises and thoughts are often brief in nature – meaning folks often don’t plan their suicide for long periods of time. It is often an impulsive decision
  • Because of the impulsive nature of many of these decisions, it becomes important to “put time and space between a suicidal person and means” by which they can harm themselves (i.e., a gun)
  • It’s OK to ask a loved one directly if they are thinking about suicide. This WILL NOT make them more likely to attempt suicide, instead it will give them an opportunity to share feelings that can be hard to express.

This video offers important information about how to own guns, while also being mindful of the health and safety of those in our families. Check out this awesome resource:

Addiction – It’s a BIG Problem

Alcohol and drug addiction and abuse are an unfortunate part of life for many Americans. Whether it’s by personal experience, or through watching a friend or loved one struggle, millions of Americans have an experience with drug and/or alcohol addiction each year.

In 2014, more than 16 million adults – that’s about 7% of the population – met criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder. Another 5 million American adults admitted to engaging in risky alcohol use that could lead to addiction in the future.

Alcohol is the most heavily used drug in the United States, followed by marijuana. And unfortunately, recent surveys have found that illicit drug use is on the rise in the United States. Illicit drugs include: marijuana, prescription drugs used other than as prescribed, cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines, etc.

Most people use drugs for the first time as teenagers, and more than half of illicit drug users begin their drug use by using marijuana. Drug use tends to be highest among teenagers and those in their twenties, but recent data suggests that drug use is increasing in people in their fifties and sixties as well.

Drug and alcohol use in children and teens is on the decline overall, with one exception: vaping. As of 2018, vaping among young people had increased dramatically, with 17.6% of 8th graders, 32.3% of 10th graders, and 37.3% of 12th graders admitting to vaping at least once in the last year.

New Office

Just a reminder that I have moved my office to:

671 Mitchell Way

Suite 109

Erie 80516

All contact info is the same:

stephaniesmithpsyd@gmail.com and 303-828-3080

Here are some photos from my new place:

Main Lobby
Waiting room – Come on in and have a seat!
My new (little!) office. Cozy and quiet, with views of Stop and Save (!!) and the occasional critter outside the window. Welcome!

Current Events Overload

I don’t care who you are, where you stand, what you believe or who you are voting for, the political news has been overwhelming. Last week I spoke to the folks over at Self Magazine for some ideas about how to cope with the hourly onslaught of news (and talking about news, and more talking about news) that we’ve all been trying to deal with. Here’s the entire article:

Here’s one of my tips:

There are a bunch of others, too. Including some helpful links on how to do progressive muscle relaxation, where to go to find a good laugh, and where to turn if you need to talk to a professional.

Thanks, SELF!

Talking About Suicide

Suicide has been in the news recently. The recent deaths by suicide of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain has people grappling with questions why suicide happens – particularly when it involves people with seemingly happy lives.

I recently got to be part of an article about this very topic over at VICE. Author Ali Wunderman did an amazing job sharing her own mental health struggles. I am so impressed by her honesty and vulnerability in this article. Check it out:

Here’s a quick tip for talking to a friend who you suspect is depressed:

When it comes time to act on your offer, be honest with yourself and your friends about the level of support you can provide. “It can be intimidating to reach out to anyone we suspect is struggling whether it be with mental illness, physical pain or anything else,” Smith says. But even if it’s scary, it’s worth it to try. “The fact of the matter is, it’s not about saying the perfect thing, or fixing all your friend’s problems. It’s just about showing up and being a supportive presence in their life.”

Check out the entire article for more ideas about how to talk to a friend or family member who you suspect might be experiencing thoughts of suicide.

Kids, Appetite and Medication

I’m so excited to be joining up with Produce for Kids for our new series: Ask a Psychologist. Last month I wrote a piece about how to cope when your child’s appetite is affected by medication. Here’s the intro:

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 6.1 million children in the United States had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the United States as of 2016. ADHD is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to maintain attention and concentration. Those diagnosed with ADHD can struggle to get work done in a timely fashion at home, work and school; social relationships can be tough to maintain as well.

Luckily, there are several, well-researched options for the treatment of ADHD. Behavioral therapy/counseling is typically recommended as a first option. This type of therapy involves a psychologist working with both the child and their family to implement strategies to increase desired behaviors (following directions, controlling impulses) and decrease those that are undesirable (disruptive behaviors). Accommodations at school are also an effective line of treatment. These might include: allowing for movement breaks throughout the course of the day, allowing extra time for tests, and strategically positioning the child in the classroom to reduce distraction.

Another option for the treatment of children diagnosed with ADHD is stimulant medication. Medication can be an important and effective tool for families, but a not-infrequent side effect is loss of appetite. If you notice your child’s appetite changing, or diminishing after starting a stimulant medication, it’s important that you contact the pediatrician or psychiatrist prescribing the medication immediately so that you can troubleshoot together. Some ideas your health care provider might suggest include: