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Sun, March 29

West Yavapai Guidance Clinic MD offers advice to win war against worry

West Yavapai Guidance Clinic: Dr. David Wolkoff, medical director. (West Yavapai Guidance Clinic/Courtesy)

West Yavapai Guidance Clinic: Dr. David Wolkoff, medical director. (West Yavapai Guidance Clinic/Courtesy)

West Yavapai Guidance Clinic Medical Director Dr. David Wolkoff tapped the wry wisdom of the late humorist Erma Bombeck to cope with the worry inspired by the global COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic.

“Worry is like your rocking chair; it keeps you busy, but never gets you anywhere,” said the psychiatrist and married father of an 11-year-old son.

The two biggest fears most people have related to the contagious virus is what will happen to them if they catch it and those they love, including aging parents, and job loss, sometimes both, Wolkoff said. For the majority of those who contract the virus, the impact is no more severe than a flu or other respiratory infection that requires one stay home and recuperate for several days, he noted. On the job side, Wolkoff said the economic impact might require some financial belt-tightening but a leap to one becoming homeless because they can’t pay the mortgage or rent is likely premature, he said.

Not to say that some of these anxieties are not real, Wolkoff said. Yet he advises that dwelling on the unknown can paralyze people so they become unable to problem solve when a real situation arises.

What exacerbates the problem now is a 24-7 cycle of mixed messages from newsmakers and politicians fueling irrational fear, Wolkoff said.

“People make bad decisions when they’re panicked,” Wolkoff said.

His advice to all leaders — national, state and local — is to concentrate on reigniting the economy and reinforcing health care systems rather than scaring people away from living their lives. He, too, encourages them to advocate for support for those who need it the most.

Wolkoff prefers to inspire hope and connections. He prefers “physical distancing, not social distancing.”

“The virus doesn’t have wings,” Wolkoff said. “Just don’t lick your friends’ face.”

Wolkoff wants people to see the “silver linings” of spending more time with family and close friends without the distractions of long commutes. He wants them to appreciate stepping away from the everyday hustle and bustle that can deprive people of time to just converse and relax.

For the good of one’s mental and physical health, Wolkoff said people need to sing, even if it’s just in the shower or with the windows rolled up in the car.

“Sing if you can, if you can’t, sing anyway,” Wolkoff said.

Laugh and tell jokes. Read a good book. Engage in “armchair” travel.

Get a good night’s sleep and find ways to help a neighbor, or one’s community.

Wolkoff advises people to devote just a half hour a day to reading and listening to reports on the virus; once a week to checking one’s bank account or stock market portfolio.

Most of all, Wolkoff reminds folks to “be gentle with yourself.”

This is not the time for people to be alone with their fears. It is a time to stay connected with those who can lend support or offer a helping hand when things seem to be beyond one’s control.

“Be aware of your own anxiety and mindful of your body,” Wolkoff said.

CARING FOR FAMILIES

During this “onslaught of uncertainty” family and child advocates fear a rise in domestic violence and child abuse and neglect as unrelenting stress can lead adults to “do things they tend to regret,” said Prevent Child Abuse Arizona Executive Director Claire Louge.

“We understand this,” Louge said. “The name of the game is to keep ourselves self-regulated and calm whether you are a parent or not. The best thing we can all do is to help parents to self-regulate and stay calm. Through calm, children can cope with the scariness and uncertainty of this shared situation.”

To do this, Louge’s agency has prepared tips that they are offering to other advocates and families. Part of this effort is to assure parents that they are not alone, and comfort them when children act out because they are bored, uncertain about their routines or simply are angry they can’t play with friends.

“This is not a time to try and be a perfect parent — as there is no such thing,” Louge said. “Don’t feel guilty letting kids watch two movies rather than one. Adapting the rules is what we all need to do in this situation.”

She and other mental health professionals encourage parents to take a collective breath. It’s OK not to have all the answers. Children just need to know their parent is in this with them.

Her agency is partnering with both Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Clubs in a drive to collect new and gently used board games.

“This helps children have something to do that is engaging while their parents are figuring out how to deal with their own stress,” Louge said.

“This is a time to really practice a sense of compassion, and creatively connect with each other,” Louge said. “They (children and families) need us now more than ever,” she concluded.

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.

10 tips to stay mentally fit during these trying times:

  1. Get enough sleep, exercise
  2. Avoid caffeine
  3. Socialize, don’t isolate! Physical distancing, not social distancing!
  4. Help others
  5. Listen to/play music, sing
  6. Laugh, use humor
  7. Use this as an opportunity to be in touch more often with friends and family.
  8. Engage in healthy escapes - read fiction, watch movies, engage in armchair travel...
  9. Think of hard times you managed to survive; see this as a challenge to meet, one to tell kids/grandkids/friends about years from now.
  10. Seek silver linings – more family time, less pollution, time to volunteer.

10 tips for parents and caregivers:

  1. Reassure your children that your family is your top priority.
  2. Maintain everyday family routines.
  3. Have plenty of interesting things to do at home.
  4. Take notice of behavior you like.
  5. Make sure your child knows you are ready to talk.
  6. Be truthful in answering children’s questions.
  7. Have a family plan of action.
  8. Help children learn to tolerate more uncertainty.
  9. Take care of yourself the best you can.
  10. Reach out and connect with loved ones.

Donate board games to participating agencies: Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters, 3208 Lakeside Village Drive; Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, 3298 Bob Drive, Prescott Valley; Boys and Girls Clubs, 335 E. Aubrey St., Prescott. Drop off boxes are provided.

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