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Maintain routines to help cope with Covid, says psychologist

As lives and livelihoods are upended by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to maintain a routine with work, exercise, and intimate moments.

Routine was emphasised in the first session of ‘Church in Action – Sharing Hope and Healing in Covid Times’, the mental health outreach spearheaded by ecclesial communities and commissions of the Archdiocese. It was broadcast on Trinity TV and on the station’s Facebook page.

A panel comprising John-Paul Timothy, certified personal trainer, physical education teacher; Nicholas Voisin, counselling psychologist and Rynelle Boyce, principal and teacher at a special education school dealt with ‘Mental Health and Personal Wellness’ July 12.

Moderator was Fr Mikkel Trestrail, one of the founders of Companions of the Transfigured Christ.

The seeming unending isolation, and uncertainty with restrictions though implemented to preserve life, are causing symptoms “akin to PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]”: difficulty sleeping, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, and suicidal ideation.

“People feel isolated and alone and hopeless in many instances because they are not seeing the next step.” Uncertainty with job security and income, working extended hours, isolation were challenges. Voisin said, “I’ve actually had clients end up in hospital because of anxiety caused by overworking and not balancing, keeping a healthy balance in their life at this time,” he said.

Routines should be maintained. “Even if working from home…get up at the regular time stick to routine get ready for work.”

Work should be done within specific times with breaks for lunch. Adults with children will have other responsibilities and he suggested they make up the time and keep track of this.

He urged that persons not simply work until a task is done as this could lead to working until 1 and 2 a.m. His next point was the importance of sleep to maintain mental and physical health.

Routine is also for persons experiencing trouble sleeping. “Don’t just fall asleep on the couch and you nap there half the day and realise you can’t sleep at night when you want to…”

To assist with sleep do not spend hours watching television or on Netflix, turn off devices and create the conditions for sleep—a dark place, comfortable bed, relaxed state. He suggested exercise can be moved evening time. There were other ideas: mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

“Make sure prayer is part of your routine, prayer is very good to help us relax and deal with some of the stress and anxiety that we feel during the day,” Voisin said.

Natural remedies like Chamomile tea, lavender-scented soap and body creams can be used. Although there are pharmaceutical options, he said “natural routes” should be tried first.

Routine also applies to “intimate situations”—including frequency of sexual activity of spouses. “Sex is very good for destressing, it is very good for your mental well-being, it is very good for your relationship, not to mention making children,” Voisin said.

Giving another perspective on routine, Timothy said the body had cycles, for absorption, building and elimination of toxins. Skipping sleep to stay up late can disrupt the cycle.

“If your elimination for your body is 4 a.m. into 12 p.m. the next day, if you sleep during those hours…you are actually keeping in toxins.” At the start of the session a video was shown with Timothy discussing wellness and providing tips for exercising at home and nutrition.

‘Church in Action – Sharing Hope and Healing in Covid Times’ ran July 12 to 18. View the recordings on the Trinity TV Facebook page. —LPG

Photo by STIL on Unsplash