Released: 4/6/2020 2:13:43 PM
As Western New Yorkers, it’s likely that at some point, we have all experienced a blizzard or two. Work canceled for most, sounds of snow blowers in neighborhoods and children excited to have a snow day. But this is different. This is not a blizzard that threw off our routines for a few days. With the outbreak of the coronavirus in our community a few weeks ago, we no longer adhere to our old routines and likely won’t be able to for the foreseeable future.
While this may seem daunting, it does not have to be. We spoke with Thomas Hughes, MD, chief medical officer at Optimum Physician Alliance, about how we can all adjust during this challenging time. "I think it’s important to come to the realization and acceptance that this is our ‘new normal.' Once we’ve acknowledged it, we can then try to look at how we can make our new lifestyle work for us."
The coronavirus pandemic is new to all of us. Dr. Hughes adds, "Things are uncertain right now. Everyone needs to realize that having anxiety over the coronavirus is completely normal. It would be unrealistic to not be anxious at all."
How can we curb our anxiety? Dr. Hughes says disconnecting is key. He adds, "I know I can turn on any news station or look at my phone and become inundated with information 24/7. While staying informed and up-to-date on the world is important, it’s equally as important, if not more so, to dedicate time each day to disconnecting and shutting off the media completely. Disconnecting should be a priority."
Another aspect of our new lifestyle that many are trying to navigate through is working from home. Dr. Hughes explains, "At first, once the outbreak hit, I was working on my couch with my laptop. I didn’t have a work setup at home because I had never needed one. Now I have a dedicated space in my house where I can do my work. I even bought a standing desk. It helps you to separate work life from home life a bit, as that separation is crucial to have." For families with children, working from home presents even more challenges regarding balancing distractions. Realize that things are not going to be perfect, life has changed and we are all trying to adjust together. Be patient with yourself and others.
Lastly, don’t forget about what brought you joy before social distancing was instituted. Get creative on how to bring those aspects into your new normal. For Dr. Hughes, exercise and family game nights help provide some normalcy, "I was training for a big race at the end of May that combined strength exercises as well, and even though that is likely postponed, I’m still working towards it. It motivates me to continue to find time to get those workouts in. I also try to find time to continue to have family game night once a week. A great way to disconnect and have fun all at the same time."
If you find yourself struggling during this difficult time, please know that you are not alone. There are many resources out there that can help you get through this that be found below this article. The key takeaways here are that having anxiety is normal, disconnecting is key, separate work life from home life even though those worlds have collided and try to stay connected with others. Dr. Hughes notes, "A few times a week I try to remember people I haven’t spoken to in a while and just send them a quick email or text asking how they’re doing. Something so small can go a long way. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to have a normal life in an abnormal time. And we truly are all in this together – so know you’re not alone."
Mental Health Resources for Reference: