In COVID times, it’s fair to say that many of us are just surviving. The trouble is that when the stress response is activated over and over again it leads to burnout and overall depletion. Lack of focus, exhaustion, and an inability to concentrate are some of the complaints we might be having that hint at the fact that the stress response is over-active.

 

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In survival mode, our vision narrows to the threat, and our pre-frontal cortex progressively shuts down. Reactivity replaces deliberation. Threat can help mobilize our attention, but when it comes to solving complex problems that have multiple variables, we need our highest cognitive resources.

It doesn’t make sense to stay in survival mode longer than we have to.

So, how do we get there?

Covid anxiety and becoming aware of our feelings

We can’t change what we don’t notice, so the first step is becoming more aware of what we’re feeling at any given moment. That means cultivating the capacity to observe our emotions, rather than being run by them. Simply naming our feelings gives us more distance from them, especially when they’re intensely negative.

 

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Using calming techniques during Covid-related stress

The second step is to calm yourself, regardless of what’s going on around you. A simple but powerful way is to use your breath. By breathing in through your nose to a count of three and out through your mouth to a count of six, it’s possible to clear your bloodstream of cortisol — the most pernicious stress hormone — in as little as one minute. Movement is also helpful. A burst of jumping jacks, or running up and down stairs, is a rapid, reliable way to discharge stress and quiet the body and mind.

Once you feel calmer and more able to reflect, it’s possible to step into your adult self. When we embody this strong, empathic part of ourselves, it can care for our overwhelmed self. You might tell this self, “It’s a difficult time and it makes sense that you feel what you do,” or “These feelings won’t last forever,” or “You can feel better, and I’m going to help you.” The most important move is distinguishing between the different parts of you, so you can summon the strength of your adult self rather than feeling whipsawed by your survival self.

Calming techniques

  1. Focus on abdominal breathing
  2. Do a body scan to relax your muscles
  3. Guided imagery
  4. Mindfulness meditation
  5. Yoga, tai chi, and qigong
  6. Repetitive prayer

By putting our adult self back in charge, it’s possible to move from an enveloping experience of anxiety and fear, to a calmer place in which we’re able to hold and contain our most vulnerable self, so it no longer feels overwhelmed.

About PLAN

We are a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to future care planning for disabled adults due to mental illness. Incorporated in 1999, PLAN was formed by a group of families with disabled family members — mostly sons and daughters — concerned about who would care for their disabled dependents when they were no longer able to do so themselves.

PLAN of Central Ohio offers an activities program where clients can form friendships, practice social skills and just have fun. We meet two times a month, transporting clients to and from each activity. Our case manager/client ratio is approximately 1 to 5 to provide a safe, supervised outing. Our program includes casual dinners at inexpensive restaurants, outings to movies and trips to local places of interest.  We have been able to continue our activities program in a safe, socially-distanced way, despite the COVID-19 epidemic.  We also offer Zoom-based activities to meet the needs of those who do not wish to be out and about in these unprecedented times.

 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long have you been around?

We were formed in 1999 by a group of families with disabled family members.

What is your mission?

PLAN of Central Ohio’s mission is to provide enhanced quality of life for individuals with mental illness.

What do your services consist of?

We provide a once weekly lunch club that is socially distanced and in person.  We also provide Zoom care coordination to address concerns that arise in individuals and their care as well as concierge support as needed should an individual need groceries or assistance with daily activities or crisis navigation.  Additionally, we provide zoom classes monthly in the form of yoga, movement, music appreciation, and fun facts to encourage socialization. We provide supplemental care coordination when individual needs “fall through the safety net” and support to families who are experiencing caregiver burnout.

What is Zoom care coordination?

When an individual needs someone to talk to in a time of need they can access our care coordinators via phone or Zoom. Talks can range from simple process sessions designed to address current stressors and concerns to support needs during times of crisis. We have transported clients for emergency psychiatric evaluation.  We deliver groceries and help with pet care.  We deliver meals from restaurants so that our client’s needs during COVID-19 are respected.

What is private pay mental health home care

The services we provide could easily fall under this umbrella and are designed for individuals who do not meet Medicaid criteria for case management services.

How do you get your referrals?

We get referrals from attorney who work as conservators for disabled individuals as well as family and friends who are interested in additional support for their loved one.

How do you address caregiver burnout?

We hold annual caregiver support workshops for caregivers of disabled adults.  These workshops offer a great deal of education on mental health first aid and burnout.  We offer a safe forum for caregivers to discuss their concerns and receive supportive feedback from others navigating the same issues.

What does a typical Plan client look like?

Our clients come from families who are seeking additional support in the form of structured activities to improve quality of life in the individual.

Who can become a member? 

Families, friends, potential and active clients who would like to access our services.

What is included in membership? 

There is an annual fee that allows individuals and their supports access to our programming.  To participate in lunch club and receive care coordination services there is an additional fee of $30.00 per hour plus mileage.

What are you doing to address COVID-19 in terms of your programming?

We are committed to ensuring that our activities are safe and socially distanced when meeting in person and provide the bulk of our content via Zoom to make sure that the needs of our clients and staff are respected.