Dear Patients, Families, Friends & Colleagues,
We at the Gold Center wanted to address the growing worries and concern over the COVID-19 virus. For the moment, our office is open but we are encouraging zoom conferencing for individual sessions. Please check with Gena Silver, our office manager, or your clinician directly if you have any questions.
I will be on CNN’s New Day on Monday morning at 7:00am for early risers talking about how we should be managing the virus. I wanted to share some of my thoughts & observations with you directly.
First of all, we are in this together, and we must use patience and kindness. This is a moment for altruism not self-centered dystopian fears. I am NOT telling people to ignore their anxiety. We are allowed to be anxious, but we must tolerate the unknowns and accept our anxiety. This is the moment to use our coping strategies and model resilience and empathy for our children, families, students and patients.
- First of all, we do need to keep up on the medical facts. In psychiatry, we always deal with the medical and physical first.
- COVID-19 is a novel virus so less is known about it.
- It is spread by airborne particles. Therefore, closing schools, churches, sporting events make sense.
- We are closing the schools for prevention and mitigation not because of widespread sickness.
- Best prevention is
- Washing hands (20 seconds with soap and water).
- Avoid touching your eyes and face.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Use your elbow when you cough/sneeze.
- If you use a tissue, throw it straight in the trash.
- Do not hang out in large groups of any kind.
- If you are sick, you need to self-quarantine. But remember that you likely have the flu, a cold or allergies.
- If you have symptoms, call your doctor. Do not walk into his/her office or an ER. Telemedicine is going to save lives.
- Most people who have the COVID-19 virus will have mild symptoms and will not require hospital care.
- We DO need to worry about older adults and those with underlying medical conditions that impact the lungs or make them immune compromised.
Let’s talk about panic and anxiety. We are all feeling anxious because:
- The virus is new, therefore we truly don’t have much legitimate medical knowledge and treatment yet.
- We feel blindsided because our leaders did not seem to take it seriously and prepare.
- We are hearing conflicting messaging. Government officials and medical professionals are doing their best, but the messaging is confusing and often contradictory.
- The lack of testing is slowing down everything. (Every physician I have spoken to complains about the testing delay)
- The testing will come. It will help answer many questions but will create its own set of problems.
We have to tolerate the unknowns of the moment. We live in a democracy, and part of that responsibility is managing the unknowns and inconsistencies.
Secondly, much of the challenge is managing ANTICIPATORY ANXIETY. Anticipatory anxiety is when you are feeling nervous or worried about something that you think is going to happen in the future, not the present. We all need to work on staying in the present and taking care of friends and family. We need to manage our discomfort with uncertainly, possible boredom and relative social isolation.
TALKING TO YOUR KIDS:
MANAGE YOUR OWN ANXIETY FIRST
The flight attendant always tells you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. You cannot help your children with their anxiety until you have addressed your own first.
Dealing with your anxiety:
- You are allowed to be anxious.
- If you are older or have a chronic condition, then you do need to stay home and take extra precautions.
- Stick to your schedule as much as you can.
- Find a few moments for yourself to breath, meditate or play on your phone (not on social media).
- Manage your media and social media diet. Keep up but consume media for education not if it fuels your anxiety.
- Social distancing does not mean social isolation. Call and Facetime your friends. We all need each other.
- Exercise if you can. I am not recommending going to the gym but walk or run. I also recommend the remote exercise apps.
Talking to your kids:
I will post more details on our website and social media over the next few days.
- They may be thrilled that they are out of school. I want them to enjoy the school closing if they can.
- Explain that schools are closed to prevent the virus from spreading. It does not mean that their friends and teachers are necessarily sick.
- Don’t give too much information.
- Children don’t always know the difference between fantasy and reality so manage their exposure.
- Let them ask the questions. Don’t give them too much information.
- Children are egocentric, reassure them they are going to be ok.
- Look for signs of anxiety: they may be more irritable or clingy. You may see acting out behavior or regressive behavior such as tantrums or bathroom accidents.
- Again they may be happy for school closures. Let them enjoy it!
- Talk about COVID-19. Clarify myths from facts.
- Acknowledge feelings of anxiety & reassure them.
- Stick to present facts & fears. Don’t project your future fears on to them (no dystopian fantasies).
- Pay attention to signs of anxiety such as withdrawn behavior or acting out.
- Help them manage media and social media exposure.
High School & College Age
- Talk about the virus and clarify myths from facts.
- Acknowledge their anxiety and discuss how it is impacting their life (college closing, cancelled SATs, graduations and parties)
- Encourage them to use reliable sources such as CDC, doctors and trusted media outlets
- Help them to manage their social media and media diet.
- Remember that we all process trauma and anxiety differently.
- It is common for teenagers to minimize fears and dangers. Don’t get angry. Remember that denial may be part of your teen’s coping strategy.
- However, teenagers do need to take responsibility for how their behavior impacts others and they may need to be reminded of hand washing and social distancing.
- Don’t lean on your teen. Use adult friends and family members to vent.
I am asked on daily basis how to instill resilience and grit into tweens and teens. Today, we all have an opportunity to cultivate empathy and work on resilience right now as a country.
Please take care of yourself and your families. Our entire team is available for calls, emails and visiting.
Jodi Gold, MD &
The Gold Center Team
Jennifer O’Keefe, MD
Robert Accordino, MD
Monica Ghailian, PhD
Talya Kook, PsyD
Stacy Kuhn, MPH, MSW
I will be posting more recommendations on our website www.thegoldcenters.com and on social media. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or recommendations on good articles and sources.
Sources & Recommendations:
(Basic facts from CDC)
(Great site for parents of young kids)
(Dr. Accordino’s great recommendation on learning about social distancing)
Please send us good sources that you have found.