ASHLAND Everybody knows to cough and sneeze into their elbow, wash hands for 20 seconds and use sanitizer.

We also know about social distancing.

But how do you cope with the stress the coronavirus causes?

Steve Tackett of Tri-State Counseling & Psychotherapy in Ashland said his office has seen a small rise in appointments

“I would expect some to be more cautious about coming to the office, so we have taken steps to limit how many people are here in the waiting area and our staff does a great job keeping everything clean and sanitized,” he said. “All toys and magazines have been removed from the waiting area as well.  By next week, we should have the ability to provide telehealth/online services if needed, too.“

What is happening to people in their own heads? What do people seem to be worrying or stressing about? Should they be?

I think everyone is stressed, even me! We have never seen anything like this in our lifetimes and with social media adding to it, we are all not sure what to think, do or feel. Naturally our brains react with fear and emotion first and later our logical brain kicks in.  

People are worried about their health, the health of their loved ones, their jobs, being able to have supplies in case they need to quarantine, etc.  

It is absolutely normal to be stressed and anxious. This is all brand new to all of us. We just have to be careful with making it worse than it is through our thoughts, what we see, read, watch, etc.  

What can people do to assess their own mental state and the state of mind of those in their home?

Open communication and being aware of how they feel, acknowledging it and trying to understand and manage it. Check in with how their body feels. Often, we can think we are managing things but our bodies will always tell the truth. Headaches, stomach issues, sleeping problems, being irritable, etc. are all signs that maybe we aren’t dealing with our emotions well.

Nobody knows how long this is going to last, so we don’t know how long we will need to be vigilant about staying away from others and having our social lives interrupted or whether we have enough toilet paper to last us long enough. How do you fight THAT battle with yourself?

I think we have to acknowledge that we don’t know how long this will last and work through and accept the feelings this produces.

I believe our faith, no matter what that is, plays a big role in this, too. We can be anxious, scared, etc. and still hold to our faith that this will all work out and have a greater meaning one day; even if we don’t know when that day is. For me, I keep my eyes ahead but I try to mainly focus one day or week at a time. I’m still making plans for my son’s graduation, my daughter’s dances, my vacation, etc. but I’m also mindful that this pandemic may interrupt these things.  

What can people do to control or

reduce their stress?

This is the most asked question I get. I have posted several items on my personal Facebook page and our practice’s page to address this.  

1.  Accept and acknowledge your emotions. Let yourself feel however you feel. Practice grounding skills, pray, stay engaged in the moment.  

2. Limit exposure to the news and social media. Only trust legit sites like the CDC and WHO.  Now is not the time to listen to your neighbor, uncle, parents, friends, etc. Base your beliefs and understanding on legit scientific pages.  

3. Be vigilant but continue to live. Read books, go for a walk, take a drive even. Enjoy your family, human or fur babies. Take up that project you have been putting off. We have become so busy as a society that we need to take this chance and slow down.  

 4. Remind yourself this will be OK and be careful who you surround yourself with.

5. I encourage everyone to take the time and write/journal about this time and how you are feeling. One day this will be a memory and how great would it be to share these writings with our kids, grandkids, or to look back and read our own thoughts years later? Plus it gives us a chance to get how we feel out on paper.  

What can people with children do to help the children remain calm?

We need to talk to our kids and check in on them. Manage our emotions first. I shared a post about this on our practice’s Facebook page that has had more than 20,000 interactions.

Kids will always look to their parents and other adults about how to act in new situations. The post said young kids won’t remember anything specific about the virus but they will remember how their home environment felt, so we need to teach our kids resilience, not panic. Our governor has also done a great job addressing this and made part of his daily news conferences child friendly. BrainPop also has a good video that makes this virus very simple to understand.

So talk with them often, give them accurate age appropriate information, and make sure you let them know it’s OK to feel however they feel. Lead by example. Spend time with them# Take this time to connect with your kids, and also learn to respect the jobs our teachers, teacher aides and child-care workers do.

Also be especially kind to the senior class in high school, college and to those whose programs got cut short due to colleges closing different internships and practicum sites.  

Be kind to those whose athletic seasons were cut short or that may not happen. Even though these are all necessary steps that have been taken, it still hurts and sucks for these young men and women.  Not knowing if you are going to have a senior prom or be able to graduate is difficult, so be kind.  

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I just want to stress that we will get through this together. This will one day be a memory and I encourage everyone to make note of the things that matter to them during this time of stress and to remember these things when life gets back to normal.

Our strength is in our community and small towns like ours can rally around and support each other. Check on your neighbors, check on people living alone, stay connected with loved ones and take this opportunity to slow down and engage with what matters to you. Let yourself be afraid and anxious. Embrace it.  Talk to yourself like you would a small child. Be kind, be compassionate and be vigilant. And wash your hands.  

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