Social Distancing Mental Health Tips

As a kid, when I thought about the year 2020, I imagined life like the Jetson’s – flying cars, robots and all kinds of things I couldn’t even imagine yet. As I thought about 2020 as an adult, it was clean slate – it was refreshing to begin a new decade with a positive mindset of the good things I wanted to do, the time I wanted to spend with my loved ones and a realization of how fast times goes by.

It’s safe to say that 2020 isn’t going down the path many of us imagined, but here we are. Many of us are fortunate enough to work from home, while others are on the front lines, wearing their superhero capes under their scrubs, uniforms or outdoor gear.

The fear of the known, and unknown, can take a toll on our mental health. We had the chance to talk with Pediatric Psychiatrist Dr. Kirsten Cowan about some tips to keep in mind during these uncertain times.

Mental Health Tips during Pandemic:

– Make sure your news sources are reputable.

– Try to keep a routine. Set a bedtime, and stick to it, and try to keep the same wake time. Map out a schedule. These things will help maintain stability.

– With the social distancing we need to practice to protect our physical health, see if you can work in safe ways to connect socially that are safe (Facetime, Skype, phone calls to friends, family, and neighbors). 

– Exercise! Immediately beneficial for mood and anxiety and helps with sleep. Plus – immune boost! Find free work out videos, have a dance party in your living room, or go for a walk. We’re all probably going to feel cooped up. Going for a walk can be a good way of getting out safely.

– Eat healthfully. Fruits and vegetables are always a good bet.

Talking to Children about the Pandemic:

Understandably, many young children feel frightened and confused about this situation.

– There is no absolute right or wrong way to talk about this issue.

– Use words and concepts that the child understands. Young children might not know what a virus is, but may have a sense about “germs” for example. Gear the language to match their age and developmental level.

– In general, let things be open, so children know they can ask whatever questions they have.

– Answer questions honestly, but let the child guide how much detail you go into. Sometimes a short and simple explanation is enough.

– Validate the child’s feelings and reactions.

– It is fine to reassure children, but don’t make promises that you cannot keep.

– You may want to consider monitoring/limiting what they see on TV. Or at least making sure that you are there to support them and to process it with them after if there are disturbing stories or images.

– Point out the things that people are doing to help one another during this difficult time.

Click here for more details and resources. 

As for us at the Miller-Dwan Foundation, we continue to move forward with our everyday grit, continuing to improve the healthcare in our region. We may not be in the office every day but we are still here for you, and will continue to be in the future.

Here’s how we are personally practicing self-care:

I’m keeping up with my morning workouts…so even though I’m not going into the office each morning, I still wake up at my normal time and exercise. Keeping with a routine is good for me!

Every day I share my St. John Virgin Islands video feed with my friend Lauretta. It’s so good, you can almost feel the ocean air, and it reminds us of our travels there. It also gives us something to look forward to.

For this weekend my daughter and grandson are staying with us. He will keep me hopping.


· Focus on what is GOOD, rather than what we can’t control. What was the highlight of your day? Who helped you out? What has this extra time spent at home allowed you to do, that you normally don’t make time for?

· Zoom, Skype, Facetime and Facebook live have all been great tools for staying connected with family, friends, colleagues, the local community and the outside world. These unprecedented times have given me the opportunity to think outside the box, for example: I can still attend a Pilates class or church service online in real-time.

· Take time to exercise, it helps keep our mental health in-check. Jump on the treadmill, take the dog for a walk, or a stroll on the Lakewalk.

· Take a break from getting sucked into watching the news. (that’s a tough one)

Kerry Jo:
I am making sure I get outside as much as possible. Last night I walked on a new trail and saw about 30 deer on my walk. Lou Ann is excited about the walks and wildlife as well!

Be safe, keep your loved ones safe and we’ll see you soon.

Read a note from Traci Marciniak, President of the Miller-Dwan Foundation.

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Together we will realize our shared vision of a community free from mental health crisis.