Handling Anxiety in Difficult Times

Information about anxiety and loneliness. With tips.

Recently, we published three articles on COVID-19 (the coronavirus). Today, we conclude our series with a look at handling anxiety in difficult times. Tomorrow, we return to our regular topics.

Please look at this post for links to important sites on COVID-19. About the Coronavirus.

Author’s comment: Just a few days ago, my 37-year-old daughter asked me if I had ever seen anything like this pandemic in my lifetime. My response was an emphatic NO!!  This is  the most widespread and anxiety-provoking health crisis that I have ever seen.  Most of us could never imagine a worldwide crisis that has put many of us in stay-at-home status. And threatens the world’s economies.

Observations About Handling Anxiety in Difficult Times

As a high-risk person, I know from my own situation how anxiety-provoking this pandemic can be. Especially now that millions of us are in isolation — either totally alone or staying with a limited number of family members. And  with little outside contact, given all of the business, school, entertainment venue, and other shutdowns.  Unfortunately, this looks like our living arrangements for a while.

For information on anxiety and loneliness during these stressful times, we turn to Business Insider and Futurity.

Insights from Business Insider (BI)

BI published an article titled How Increased Social Distancing for the Coronavirus Could spur a Loneliness Epidemic.” Here are a few highlights:

“While the implementation of social distancing — avoiding large gatherings and maintaining a distance from others — is crucial to preventing the coronavirus pandemic from intensifying, the practice could also cause a ‘social recession,’ or a collapse in social contact that especially affects populations who are most susceptible to loneliness and isolation, like the elderly, according to Vox.”

“And loneliness has proven to exacerbate health complications among the elderly: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a report suggesting seniors who experience social isolation or loneliness may face a higher risk of conditions including heart disease, depression, and mortality.”

Handling Anxiety in Difficult Times
Tips For Handling Loneliness from Futurity

Elissa Kozlov, a licensed clinical psychologist and instructor at Rutgers University, discusses strategies for taking care of your mental health while staying at home (at Futurity.org):

“Use technology! For example, schedule regular video chat and phone dates with friends and family. Get creative. Watch movies, play online games,  or participate in virtual book clubs.”

“Reach out to friends and relatives who are especially at risk during this time. Call older adults and people with chronic health conditions to give them meaningful social contact during these trying times.”

“A good strategy is distraction. If you find yourself thinking continuously about risk of illness, try to distract yourself by getting involved in an engaging activity. Or by picking up the phone to talk with a friend. Take advantage of nice weather and go for a walk in an open space. Get outside as much as possible if it’s safe to do so.”

“You can also try mindfulness meditation. There are several excellent mobile apps that can teach you how to practice meditation, such as the free app Mindfulness Coach, which was developed by a team of psychologists at the Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD research. It walks users through the basics of mindfulness meditation.”

“If you have trouble sleeping, check out the Veterans Affairs’ app CBT-I Coach (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia), which takes you through different strategies to help quiet your mind at night. If you find that anxiety or insomnia interferes with your ability to function during the day, seek professional help to reduce the impact of anxiety.”

Click the image to read more.

Handling Anxiety in Difficult Times
(Credit: Getty Images)

At-Home Activities to Stimulate Us

Engage your body and mind. Think positive.

On Tuesday, we looked  at what we should do now – cleanliness. Today, we look at in-home activities to stimulate us.

Food for Thought: At-Home Activities to Stimulate Us

As we seek to find our own routine, we turn to the Automobile Association of America (AAA) for suggestions. According to the AAA:.

“News of the COVID-19 is everywhere. And many people try their best to stay healthy and help slow the virus’s spread. Due to high transferability, acts like social distancing, working remotely ,and self-quarantining are used as precautionary measures. Stuck inside the house for a while? Make make the most of it. Here’s how to stay busy, entertained, productive and healthy at home.”

        • Home maintenance — Start with home projects you’ve been meaning to get to, like small repairs or organizing a junk drawer, closet, and so on.. Go through your fridge, pantry, and cabinets, getting rid of anything expired.
        • Self-maintenance —  Take care of your physical and mental health, and know how to keep your mind busy,
        • Use technology — Watch movies. Play video games. Listen to music. 
        • Connect with others — Text. Face Time. Call..
        • Get creative — Do something artistic, like drawing, painting, scrapbooking, crafts, or writing. 
        • Engage your brain — If you enjoy learning, take online classes, quizzes or try watching some how-to videos/tutorials. Do crossword puzzles and/or Sudoku. Read a good book.
        • Connect with others — Text. Face Time. Call..

To conclude, click the image to read more.

What We Should Do Now - Activities to Stay Occupied

What We Should Do Now – Cleanliness

Be smart. Follow these tips.

This week, we add to our two posts from last week. About the Coronavirus and Coronavirus Thoughts from a High-Risk Perspective. Today, we look at what we should do now – cleanliness. Thursday, we look at activities we can do to productively occupy ourselves.

Update from the author: For the most part, I stayed at home last week. Went out to the supermarket a couple of times and ate out once. However, as of today during my routine checkup, my endocrinologist (Dr. T) told me to stay at home. Period! And when Dr. T speaks, we listen. After all, he saved my life with his early discovery of my pancreatic cancer.

Food for Thought: What We Should Do Now – Cleanliness

The number one COVID-19 tip is overwhelming related to cleanliness. Washing our hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. Reducing how often we touch our faces. Washing down surfaces we and others touch. Even cleaning our cell phones. And more!

Just yesterday, Futurity ran an article on the importance of cleanliness from Neal Buccino of Rutgers University. Some highlights from that article:

    • “The CDC recommends daily disinfection for frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. The CDC also recommends the use of detergent or soap and water on dirty surfaces prior to disinfection.”
    • “Whatever cleaning solution you use, let it remain in contact with the surface long enough to kill viruses and other pathogens. The time depends on the chemical. Don’t use different cleaning agents at the same time. Some, if mixed, can create dangerous and poisonous gases.”
    • “Bleach can be diluted with cold water to make an effective disinfectant against bacteria, fungi, and many viruses — including coronaviruses. Be sure to follow the directions on the label of your bleach.”
    • “You can dilute alcohol with water (or aloe vera to make hand sanitizer) but be sure to keep an alcohol concentration of around 70% to kill coronaviruses. Many hand sanitizers have a concentration of about 60% alcohol. And Lysol contains about 80%. These are all effective against coronaviruses.”
    • “Vinegar, tea tree oil, and other natural products are not recommended for fighting coronaviruses.”

To read more at Futurity, click the image.

What We Should Do Now - Cleanliness
“Whatever cleaning solution you use, let it remain in contact with the surface long enough to kill viruses and other pathogens. The time needed will depend on the chemical.” (Credit: Getty Images)

 

Coronavirus Thoughts from a High-Risk Perspective

As older and less-healthy adults, what are we to do?

On Tuesday, we looked at the coronavirus in terms of facts versus myths. Now, we offer coronavirus thoughts from a high-risk perspective.

As those of you who read Living Well While Surviving Cancer already know, the author of this blog (Joel Evans) is a pancreatic cancer survivor with a compromised immune system. As well as a Type I diabetic. And a senior citizen. That puts me in the highest-risk category if I contract COVID-19.

Something else to worry about. Or not. After all, what am I supposed to do now? I refuse to lock myself in my house. But what smart things should I do?

Psychologically, I was fine until the CDC issued an advisory for older adults. According to a CNN report:

[On Thursday March 5, 2020] “Amid a coronavirus outbreak in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging older people and people with severe chronic medical conditions to stay at home as much as possible.'”

“This advice is on a CDC Web site, according to a CDC spokeswoman. Early data suggest older people are twice as likely to have serious illness from the novel coronavirus, according to the CDC.”

“The CDC guidance comes as two top infectious disease experts with ties to the federal government have advised people over 60 and those with underlying health problems to strongly consider avoiding activities that involve large crowds. Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University professor and longtime adviser to the CDC, said these two groups should consider avoiding activities such as traveling by airplane, going to movie theaters, attending family events, shopping at crowded malls, and going to religious services.”

Also, check out the CNN video.

My Advice to Myself

In light of the CDC’s warning and my health status, what am I to do? My answer for ME (which may be different than your advice for YOU) is to BOTH be smart and live life every day.

I will go out to restaurants, but not to movie theaters. Linda and are rethinking our vacation plans and not going on the cruise we were planning. Also, the thought of air travel does not excite me. I will wash my hands more often and more thoroughly.  I will continue my volunteer work at United Cerebral. I guess I will fist pump rather than shake hands, even though this seems somewhat silly to me.

When I started thinking about doing this post, I looked for information from AARP. And as expected, it has a terrific section of its Web site devoted to COVID-19:

“Older Americans and adults who take routine medications to manage chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, should make sure they have ‘adequate supplies’ on hand as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to climb in the U.S.”

“Avoiding sick people and washing your hands often are two preventive strategies public health experts have been pushing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Older Americans living in areas that are experiencing spikes in coronavirus cases may also need to think about the actions they take to reduce exposure to the virus.  This may include social distancing strategies, such as teleworking and avoiding large public gatherings.”

“Health officials also advise taking everyday steps that can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. Wash your hands often with soap and water (scrub for at least 20 seconds), and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap is not an option. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. And cover your coughs and sneezes. “

Click the image to read a lot more from AARP.

Coronavirus Thoughts from a High-Risk Perspective

Volunteering Is GREAT

Thanks my UCP buddies for giving back to ME!

As this blog title notes, “Volunteering Is GREAT.” And I realized this more than ever while being laid up after my knee replacement surgery.

Last year, I wrote: If you aren’t already doing so, consider volunteering. It’s a true win-win, for those you are helping as well as for YOU. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 It is so rewarding!!

While I was recuperating, I was really, really bored. Besides doctor appointments and physical therapy, I had little to do. As well as limited mobility.

But my United Cerebral Palsy buddies whom I mentor really cheered me up. They called me as a group. Amazingly, I recognized all of their voices. They also sent me a couple of cards signed by many of them. That really made happy.

When I returned on a limited basis two weeks ago, they gave me incredible welcomes. Yelling out Joel, Joel, Joel. Running to give me hugs. And presenting  me with homemade cards. I was almost in tears.

The preceding is what we get back from volunteering: An incredible sense of making a difference with someone else who needs it. I missed volunteering as much as they missed me.

Here’s a story I wrote about the president of our local self-advocacy group, Jaquan Giles. It appeared in the UCP – LI December 2019 newsletter.

Volunteering Is GREAT
 

I Am Now a Five-Year Cancer Survivor

Hope is a precious commodity.

 

Amazing. Unbelievable. Lucky. Blessed. I am now a five-year cancer survivor.  Although some define the 5-year period as beginning at the date of diagnosis, I prefer to use the date of my Whipple surgery for pancreatic cancer. February 12, 2015. So, exactly five years ago today.

I am kind of melancholy about reaching this point. But I don’t feel the euphoria about beating the less than 10 percent survival rate for PC that I expected. I just learned this is not uncommon. According to Dr. SP, a leading psychologist, my melancholy reflects a lot of subconscious feelings about the traumatic events during my journey. Even though I try as hard as possible to be upbeat on a daily basis. Also, it relates to my profound sorrow about others with cancer who have not been so lucky. And my own continuing challenges.

Live life every day. Live as long as you can, as well as you can.

Observations about Surviving Cancer

From Cancer.Net:

“A person who has had cancer is commonly called a cancer survivor. ‘Co-survivor’ is sometimes used to describe a person who has cared for a loved one with cancer.”

“Not everyone who has had cancer likes the word ‘survivor.’ The reasons for this may vary. For instance, they may simply identify more with being ‘a person who has had cancer.’ Or if they are dealing with cancer every day they may describe themselves as ‘living with cancer.’ Therefore, they may not think of themselves as a survivor. Living with a history of cancer is different for each person. But most people have the common belief that life is different after cancer.”

“Other common reactions that people have after cancer include:

              • Appreciating life more.
              • Being more accepting of themselves.
              • Feeling more anxious about their health.
              • Not knowing how to cope after treatment ends.”

           

        • Now, check out this video.

       

My Latest Adventures — Part Two

Hail to the caregivers. 🙂

On Tuesday, we presented part one. Today, we offer my latest adventures — part two. It is dedicated to my wife Linda, the LOML (love of my life).

Here we are together, as highlighted from my Facebook page.

My Latest Adventures — Part Two

Linda as Caregiver

Throughout my journey from pancreatic cancer patient until the present, Linda has been GREAT. Both physically and emotionally. Hail to the caregivers, who are often underappreciated. People always ask how the patient is doing, but fewer show concern for the caregiver. But I do, I appreciate Linda and all she does; and I realize the strain my condition places one her. 

For my latest adventures — involving knee replacement surgery, these are just some of the activities which Linda has done:

    • Drove me everywhere we needed to go. That included multiple trips to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, which is 50 miles from our home.
    • Stayed in a hotel by herself for the days I was in the hospital after the surgery. This meant using Uber to get around.
    • Shopping and lifting groceries, cat litter, and other heavy items that I could not help with post surgery.
    • Going up and downstairs at our home multiple times daily to help me after I was discharged from the hospital. 
    • Worrying about me going up and downstairs, being overly tired, etc.
    • And MUCH more.

Linda, you are appreciated.