PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — As the number of coronavirus cases increases across the country and in Florida, so is our anxiety and stress.
“It’s a really hard time, and the level of stress that people are enduring has reached an all-time high,” said Boca Raton psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Saltz. “We’re starting to lose our sense of normalcy.”
Saltz, a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist, said more of her patients are experiencing not only increased stress and anxiety, but grief and depression.
“We have all have a fear of the unknown, we all are afraid of uncertainty,” said Saltz. “Trying to combat our natural fear of the unknown is what we need to really do right now.”
Saltz said while social distancing guidelines are critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s also affecting people through their loss of personal connections with others.
“We lose our sense of normal distance, we lose our sense of touch. Things even sound different,” said Saltz. “Our senses are totally discombobulated.”
So what can we do to overcome these difficult feelings during an incredibly difficult time?
INTERVIEW WITH DR. SALTZ:
“We really need to engage in self care,” said Saltz. “Self care is critical.”
The psychiatrist said things like eating well, exercise, getting enough sleep, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and muscle relaxation techniques are more important than ever.
But not just that, self-care also means taking time to do what you love and what you’re passionate about: painting, cooking, jogging, playing music, even stretching.
“We need to take truly a few minutes at the end of every half hour or hour, even if it’s only three minutes, to say, OK, I’m going to stand up right now, I’m going to stretch in place, and this is my me time to decompress,” said Saltz. “Really focus on that me time, even for a few minutes to stretch, do jumping jacks in place. Whatever you need to do in order to reset your brain.”
STRUCTURE & ROUTINE
“What happened with this pandemic is that all of our structure and all of our schedules of the world got completely turned around, almost overnight. And we need to create a new structure,” said Saltz.
Saltz recommends literally starting from scratch and creating a new hour-by-hour routine for your day, and making that routine your new normal.
“It’s not just for you, it’s for your children, too. And it’s critical,” said Saltz.
With schools in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast closed until at least May 1, students across our area are taking part in digital learning at home.
Saltz said your children need as much structure as possible when learning at home.
“If at all possible, don’t have your children doing their homework on their computer in their beds. They need to be out,” said Saltz. “You can take the kitchen table and turn it into a desk for time being. Even switching the location of the kitchen table and turning it in a different direction creates a new sense of space that these children can have so they know that this is my office, this is my place to study.”
And if you’re working from home while you’re kids are learning at home, create barriers and make sure your children understand and respect those barriers.
“Mommy is on an important meeting from this time to this time, which means there are no interruptions during that time period,” said Saltz. “Making them aware of when mommy and daddy are on a certain phone call or having a certain meeting, they need to know so they’re aware, so there’s no confusion, and there’s as much structure as possible.”
“As much as we love our spouses, we love our significant others, being on top of each other 24/7 can be a lot when you have kids screaming in the background too,” said Saltz.
That’s why Saltz said it’s important to remain calm and manage our own stress levels first.
Her advice is that for every negative comment you direct at your spouse, back it up with five positive comments.
Saltz also said to make sure you’re engaging in active listening with your significant other.
“Active listening means you’re really, really making sure that they’re heard,” said Saltz. “Let’s say you and your spouse are getting into an argument about doing the dishes and who’s going to do the dishes for the night. Your spouse says, no, it’s your turn to do the dishes for the night because I did it yesterday. The response would be, I heard you. I know that you did the dishes yesterday, and tonight I have to do X, Y, and Z with the children. So you actually need to paraphrase what they’re saying so that they actually know that you’re actively listening to what they’re trying to express.”
GETTING LAID OFF FROM WORK
As more businesses are forced to close or cut staff due to the coronavirus, a lot of us are feeling added financial pressure.
“Don’t take it personally,” said Saltz.
As difficult and emotional as it may be, Saltz said it’s important not to personalize it when you’re laid off.
“They’re saying, oh my god, why am I the one that’s being laid off?” said Saltz. “It may have absolutely nothing to do with you, but is a natural consequence of the times and circumstance that we’re in.”
Saltz said it’s critical to talk to yourself and your loved ones about creating a new budget, separating your needs from your wants.
“A budget needs to be discussed with those around you and make sure we’re all in agreement of what our needs are versus what our wants are,” said Saltz.
ENGAGE YOUR SENSES
A sweeping “stay at home” order is now in effect for the entire state of Florida, meaning you can only leave your home for essential services or essential activities.
That includes going to the grocery store, gas station, health care facilities, pharmacies, child care centers, and more.
With places like parks and playgrounds closed, a lot of us are feeling restricted, isolated, and confined.
That’s why Saltz said it’s important that when you do get outside for exercise like a walk, run, or bike ride, engage all five senses.
“Smell the flowers, listen to the birds chirping, feel the sweat that’s dripping down your face. Actually engage those different senses,” said Saltz.
To learn more about Dr. Saltz, click here.
WPTV gathered some resources and information that may help support your emotional and mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Information and resources from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about coping with stress.
Taking care of your emotional health during an emergency will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
Tips for social distancing, quarantining, and isolation during an infectious disease outbreak
Call this number if you need assistance finding food, paying for housing bills, accessing free child care, or other essential services.
Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime, about any type of crisis. A live, trained crisis counselor will receive the text and respond.
A 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.
Suggestions and resources for victims and survivors of domestic violence who need support.
MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
The Psychotherapists of Palm Beach County: A group of thirteen13 psychotherapists based out of Boca Raton with a second location in Lake Worth.