Maintaining Mental Health
Hendricks County experts recommend ways to cope with isolation from friends and family
By Stephanie Dolan
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and for many people facing isolation from family and friends in 2020, a spotlight is shining on this year’s theme Be Kind to Your Mind.
“First and foremost, recognize the emotions that are accompanying the pandemic,” said April Bordeau, executive director of Care to Change, an Avon-based professional counseling center. “Instead of trying to push them down or pretend they don’t exist, focus on what you can control versus what you can’t. Recognize what it is you’re feeling. We’re human.”
People can control their attitudes, response to news they hear, how much exposure they allow themselves to have to that news, where they gather information and having healthy routines, Bordeau said.
“Create healthy routines,” she said. “Make sure that rest and sleep are a priority along with proper hydration, healthy foods, being outside and moving our bodies. If our bodies aren’t supported, it’s difficult to make rational decisions.”
Bordeau also recommends eliminating toxic influences and when necessary to gather news from reputable sources like the health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“And limit exposure to that information,” she said. “Different people have different thresholds for what’s healthy. Constantly reading news on death, destruction and despair will affect anyone.”
The pandemic highlights things that make everyone nervous, said Robb Enlow, chief clinical officer at Cummins Behavioral Health in Avon.
“For people who do have mental health issues it just compounds that,” Enlow said. “The pandemic is a chronic thing. We don’t know how long it will last, and it’s beyond our control. These things trigger people to be anxious. If someone is going through grief or trauma or depression this kind of compounds or magnifies that.”
For those who already struggled with mental health, isolation and uncertain times can make life more difficult, said Michelle Freeman, director of county operations at Cummins Behavioral Health.
“If you can’t have that regular contact with your primary support system, we’ve found that this is very difficult to cope,” she said. “We’ve seen a large increase in anxiety and people just being uncertain of what’s going to happen next. Our brains have been flooded with fearful information every time we turn on the television. It’s unexpected what’s going to happen from day to day. We’ve seen an increase in anxiety around what’s next.”
One reason people struggle with substance abuse, child abuse and domestic violence more now than ever, is that they survive in isolation, Enlow said.
“There is so much that is unknown about this illness,” said Tammi Jessup, executive director of Mental Health America Hendricks County. “It keeps changing. The combination of the isolation and the unknowns, all of that is a huge amount of stress on people.”
For people experiencing new or worsening anxiety, don’t spend the whole day consuming coronavirus information on TV, phone or social media.
“Even if you are getting accurate information, it’s too much, and it’s not always reliable information,” she said.
Anyone can be taught coping methods to help deal with anxiety or depression.
“Mindfulness exercises to break focus on stress — try yoga or similar exercises — any kind of exercise really, even a slow walk outside, any kind of exposure to some fresh air,” Jessup said. “Sunshine can help a lot with depression.
Eating healthy food and sleeping enough each night help set the mind in a positive state, she said, suggesting relaxation activities such as taking a warm bath, reading and turning off electronics prior to bedtime to encourage sleep.
“If you have hobbies, try to enjoy them while you have this time,” Jessup said. “Pets are also an excellent source of stress relief if you have them.”
Bordeau follows a 4Cs mantra.
“Be calm, show courage, be compassionate and stay community minded,” Bordeau said. “I’ve definitely felt stressed. I’m a mom. I have two kids in e-learning. I run a business. I have my own family I’m trying to be a part of and be present for. It’s something that with my faith and my team and my family we take it one day at a time, just like we tell our clients.”
Enlow copes by listing he’s grateful for.
“It’s really easy to think, ‘Oh this is happening to me,” Enlow said. “List things and people you’re grateful for. It makes a difference.”
Instead of focusing on isolation and what is unattainable, try making new memories or traditions, said Amy Mace, CEO of Cummins Behavioral Health.
“Life has certain traditions around birthdays or holidays, so try to find new traditions or memories during this time,” Mace said. “Something my husband and I have done at this time, on a Saturday is we might go pick up some carryout and go to a park, find a socially distanced table to eat and then take a walk.”
Because many people currently work remotely, she also said it’s important to set starting and ending time boundaries, and commuters don’t have the car ride home to unwind at the end of the day.
“Going for a walk to decompress and enjoying some nature and fresh air can be just the thing,” Mace said. “We need to find new ways of doing that while working remotely. It’s critical to have that boundary.”
Break out box
Hendricks County mental health resources
For more information or to access mental health services, Hendricks County has several resources.
Care to Change
Address: 10080 E. U.S. 36, Suite A, Avon
Phone: (317) 790-9396
Cummings Behavioral Health
Address: 5101 E. U.S. 36, Suite 100, Avon
Phone: (888) 714-1927
Mental Health America of Hendricks County
Address: 75 Queensway Drive, Avon.
Phone: (317) 272-0027
(Photo by Eric Pritchett)