Power For Your Life Podcast | Season 1 - Episode 9
Just because we are isolated, does not mean we are in isolation. Reach out for help if you are feeling down or depressed during this stressful time. Learn more as you listen to guest speaker Kevin Schriver, PsyD. discuss this month's important topic of mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
We are bringing you this unique and different topic from those we typically discuss, because we want our members to know we are here for you for more than just your electricity. One of your electric cooperative's guiding principles is “concern for community.” Because we live in your community too, and we want the people in our community to thrive together.
Dr. Kevin Schriver is the dean of education and social sciences and professor of psychology at Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, Mo.
Resources from this episode
Tips for parents:
- Remain calm and reassuring
- Encourage proper hygiene
- Talk honestly and open with your children
- Be accurate with your information
- Teach your children to be responsible
Anxiety and Depressions Association of America: https://adaa.org/
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention-Mental Health: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: https://www.samhsa.gov/
Transcript – Power For Your Life – Season 1 | Episode 9
Original release date: May 1, 2020
My name is Danielle and I'm a member of Southwest Electric Cooperative. My favorite thing about being a member of an electric cooperative is the employees. They are always positive and helpful. Some of the employees even know me because we live in the same community.
Host: Welcome to the Power For Your Life podcast, where we focus on energy efficiency, the value of electric cooperative membership and safety around electricity. I'm Darryll Lindsey, your host. This podcast is primarily focused on energy efficiency, safety around electricity and member value. Electric cooperatives have always provided valuable information on these topics. We also believe we should be your source for any other information that is helpful to our members and our communities. During the coronavirus pandemic that has consumed our country, I consulted with our show producers and we decided to provide you with information on a very timely subject--mental health. Joining me today by phone is doctor Kevin Shriver, Dean of the College of Education and Social Sciences and professor of psychology at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. Doctor Shriver is also a dear friend of mine. Doctor Shriver, thank you for joining me for this very important topic. As you know, our world has been turned upside down since early March with a worldwide pandemic. Our homes transformed into offices and classrooms. Stay-at-home orders were issued by local and state governments. Church services and other activities moved to an online environment. Groceries are being delivered. It's been nothing in the way of normal for us. And for some, times like these are stressful. For others, we adapt and are OK. Can you start off by talking about how we analyze moments like this and then what to do if we're feeling good?
Dr. Schriver: First off, I want to say thank you for having me on your podcast and having this chance to talk about mental health issues in general. But pecifically, also too related to this pandemic. It's a moment that none of us had ever planned for, and because of that people will have to adjust their mental state as a response to whatever the pandemic is doing in their environment. Now there are some people who have a dispositional type of personality trait whereby they are prone to exhibit anxiety and worry in some of these kinds of situations. And likewise, there's another type of dispositional personality trait where this person seems to be a little bit more easy going and things like this doesn't ruffle their feathers. So, what you'll find is, is that just by those two different traits, some people will tackle this pandemic with a better mental health, uh, you know status. But if they have this tendency to worry, tendency to fear, tendency to get stressed out...these are the kinds of individuals that we do want to take a look at…trying to give them some tips with respect to their mental health and how they can work through these days and perhaps weeks that their mental health really needs to service them a little bit better. So, you ask, what do you do if you're feeling pretty good and I would say--well, “So far you may be feeling pretty good.” But some of the things you might want to consider to kind of keep that sharp edge on your mental health, you might want to try really sticking to a routine. Almost as if you were, you know, going back to work. But yes, your office is in your home. But plan like the same type of schedule that you would have for yourself going back to work. Same time getting up, same time getting dressed. Granted it may be a little bit more casual but go ahead and plan your day. Stick to those you know goals or stick to those To-Do-List items and the kind of thing that you would do during the day at work. But by the same token, since many of us are kind of taking sheltering in place or staying at home kinds of orders that make the home the real environment, try to balance your activities then within your day. Just don't sit at your computer all day long. Take breaks. You see one of the things that sometimes happens, of course, if you're at work, you really probably don't notice this, but you get breaks just by the natural course of the day. People give you a call. People come into your office. You gotta go here. You gotta go there and you know all of those kinds of breaks do help to kind of reset your mind at those given times. But if you're trying to stay in front of a computer for a couple hours at a time, that's probably not going to be a good thing. So, every couple of hours at least, get up and stretch your legs. Maybe try to go outside for a little bit of time and really 10 to 12, maybe 15 minutes are really helpful. So, if in that time you can take a real quick brisk walk up and down the street of your neighborhood. Maybe you can take out the trash. Maybe you can go for the mail. A lot of those kinds of even chore-like activities can be done to help break up your day. I think if you also take a look at, especially when working with kids, I use this mantra. I talk to parents and say structure breeds stability and stability breeds security. So as you take a look at not just your day but look at your week and try to figure out that structure that you're going to have, it gives you that sense of being in control in this environment where a lot of things really seem to be out of control. And by building that structure… balancing your days… having those To-Do-List checklist kinds of things, but also giving yourself a little bit of break time or relief, what you'll see is that leads to stability. Something that you can count on. And then because you can count on, you will feel a little bit more secure as you're going through this pandemic episode. Also, if you're feeling pretty good so far, I would say be careful to make sure that you watch out for the social media avenue where information comes in. I mean, I know we've lived through the day where whether you post something or tweet something. You're into, how many likes you know… Do people have for those kinds of posts? But that leads to a type of social comparison, and you see that somebody else’s post where somebody else’s tweet gets more likes than yours. And then you start to wonder what's wrong with you. You know that social comparison can automatically bring about a little bit of a negative mindset. But I'm also thinking in terms of all of the information that we now have coming across social media with respect to the virus itself. Is that really true information? Check your sources and then what happens is you'll get into reading some things, and because of the way they talk about it, it may cause you to worry unnecessarily. Or some other source may give you a little bit more fear. Or some other source may prompt some sort of stress reaction in you, and so in some ways you just have to be a little bit more wise when you're taking in that social media. And so therefore I would caution about giving yourself a little bit of distance from that. We talk about social distancing; we may need social media distancing I guess at some point. And one last thing that I put in here is. Because you're going to be so hold up in your own home, you know where your office space is gonna be. And of course, I'm working in my home right now. My wife, uh, who's the children's minister at a local church, they had to get out of their offices and so she's got her office downstairs. I have my office upstairs. So, we really, truly are in the office mode in a portion of our home. But what we wanted to do as well as we want to make other spaces in our home and mental space for us to have that mental relief. So, shift your space and create a mental space that will allow you to do those kinds of things there. I know a lot of people might want to try to take their laptop in on their bed. Will guess what? You're gonna be trying to sleep in that bed as well and there's going to be some memories about, OK, something earlier in the day is going to trigger that. And there I am in bed. You may be on your couch. But if your couch also is right across from the TV, yeah, you may think you're doing a little bit of multi-tasking. But watch out. Next time you sit on that couch, even though the laptop’s not on your lap, you may actually be revisiting or reliving some of those earlier worrisome or stressful moments. So, keep your office in an office kind of space if you can, and then create another mental space where you can maybe, you know, read for yourself. You know some sort of book that you like. Maybe you can work on a hobby. Maybe you can clean up that little workstation that you have out in the garage and you'll begin to tinker around with some other kinds of things and… So, begin to just put that space between where you actually are working and the other places of your home that should make it feel like home. You know that happens exactly all the time when we go to work and then when we come home. I mean, we really create those two different spaces in our minds so that hopefully we don't bring our work home with us. Well, what are you supposed to do when your work is already home with you? Well, create that space so that you have that little bit of mental relief. And I think if you do, you won't give up so much in terms of the circumstances or the environment that we really do now find ourselves.
Host: That's a real interesting tie there with social media and definition of our different spaces. I really like how you encourage us to define those spaces. In normal times we drive to the office and we also have that commute time home to clear our minds from the things of work so that we can focus on the things of home. Routines are good. However, there are times when anyone can get into a rut. So, what can I do if I'm at that point?
Dr. Schriver: Well, and I would say you know, certainly everyone could possibly find themselves getting in a rut, even those who have a disposition towards being laid back. Or, you know, kind of letting it be like water off a duck’s back. It doesn't seem to bother them, doesn't seem to stir them, but there are times that people can get into a rut of any sort. And so, if you might, you might want to keep in mind some of these kinds of tips as well. Right now, a lot of people are experiencing this isolation both socially and personally. That they are experiencing it quite differently. So, beyond the walks that you might want to take outside, you might want to have this sense of, or you might feel like you have this sense of--I need people. OK, so what should you be doing? Well, I think you do a number of different things, such as going to a favorite place. Now we know that some places restaurants still have the ability to either carryout or deliver. Now they deliver the course to bring it to your home, but if you have a carryout, you get a chance to drive there. Drive to that favorite restaurant and get that meal and bring it home. Drive to just you know drive around and see maybe what other people are doing. Uh, take a drive out in the country. I'm starting to see that a little bit more in some of my own friends who just take those drives. And especially when there's a nice sunny day and you get away from your home and then you start to see other people doing other things as well. You know and wave at strangers. That's a good thing to do. You know you're sitting there in the car and you're passing somebody. Go ahead and wave at that person that's walking at you or wave at somebody at that street corner. Those kinds of things. Because just getting out gives you a little chance to kind of get your mind reset. Another thing you can do because you're thinking I need some social contact. I need to not just look at a computer screen all day. Maybe I need to call someone. And so those people that you've been emailing, even those people that you may have been using some sort of social program that allows you to see them on your screen, and yeah, you been able to talk with them. You know that usually I'm gonna say a contrived environment, but it usually is pretty structured. But sometimes you can call up your friends and chat with them. The other thing you can do too, is just hearing that other person’s voice on the other end does wonders for your mental health because you’ve got this ability to connect with others even though we’re in isolation, please don't think that you have to be isolated. Because you can still reach out. You can still make those calls. You can still use things like FaceTime and you can still use Zoom and those tools to help access with people in those digital spaces. Another element might be trying to befriend some of your neighbors. It's amazing how many people live in neighborhoods where you walk around, but do you really know who your neighbors are? You might have some acquaintances and you really, you know, know them by visual sightings by their face, but you don't know their name. You don't know specifically what house they live in or even what they do. And again, this is the time when you actually are looking around now. Probably out in your neighborhood. And everybody is quarantined in our neighborhood. For example, we can very much pick out the times when kids get done with school in their home school kind of environment, usually by about lunch and then we start to see parents and kids taking their walks around our neighborhood in the afternoon. Well, if I go ahead and kind of make myself available out there in the front drive. And as certainly as we were leading up to our Easter. Like I said, my wife that works at a church in with the children's ministry, we did chalk drawings out on our driveway, and as we were doing--and these were big chalk drawings, they were they were 15 by 20 feet. So, people would come by and take a look at them and they would stop and they would chat and we get to know them. And sure enough, they were neighbors in the neighborhood. They would tell us they lived around the corner six houses down or whatever. And so that may be a point where you got that social distancing, but it's for someone almost right in your own backyard. And maybe what you can do is become a little bit more intentional. You know, if you see somebody out in out in their yard and you say, ‘Oh, you know what I need to take a break, let me go out to the mailbox to look to see if I got any mail. But while I'm out there, I'll just look over at my neighbor and say, Hey, Tom, how you doing?’ You know type of thing…and sometimes you may sit there for a little bit of a conversation which then kind of shows you've got a vested interest in them. They've got invested interest in you. And that little brief moment of social contact, even though it may just seem arbitrary, if you're intentional about it, you'll realize that's the kind of thing that can help you come out of a rut if you find yourself feeling a little bit more isolated, then probably what you ought.
Host: You know you mentioned neighbors, and then the question comes to my mind. Do we really know our neighbors? And that's an interesting point, especially today. It's so important to check in with your neighbors and your friends and lend them a hand when we can, or at least have a conversation with them. Let's take a short break and when we come back, Dr. Shriver has more practical advice for us if we're in a mental rut and suffering from what I call pandemic paralysis….when we return.
Host: Back with more of the Power For Your Life podcast. Just a reminder that today's podcast is a bit different from the normal content. We're providing tips for our mental health during this pandemic crisis. With me today is Dr. Kevin Schriver, Dean of the College of Education and Social Sciences and professor of psychology at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. Before we continue our discussion, I encourage you to find a pen and a piece of paper. We’ll have a couple of websites for you to take note of in just a bit. Before the break, Dr. Schriver was sharing the importance of checking in with our neighbors. Dr. Schriver, are there other tips I can take to heart if I find myself in a rut?
Dr. Schriver: Well, I would suggest that you come to a point in time where you are looking and trying to address your coping skills. And a lot of that is basically built around how do you react to the situation that is in front of you. And most of what we try to teach in this kind of Psycho-educational format to people in class or even just individuals for just wanting to pick up some good mental health tips. I break these down into two different kinds of categories for you being able to cope with it any given situation. The first grouping is called problem-focused solutions. It does indeed mean that you are in an effort or you're trying to manage with something that you are actually able to do. You are centered and focused on the problem, so you want to work the problem to its solution. How might you do that? One of those ways is information gathering. You know there's a lot of buzz about this virus, and some of it can be just exaggerated. You have the ability to research on your own and be able to pick up some facts that help you to distinguish that, and that reconciles a little bit more of that stress problem that you had. Some people like to use goal setting. This is a little bit more than just a to-do-list on a day-to-day basis. But it's a little bit more detail because it's a little bit more elaborate. Maybe to say I need to accomplish this, this week or I need to accomplish this, this month And it might be in the context of ‘What are you learning in this newfound world of online education everything?’ that you now want to become a little bit more of an expert at. So, set a goal for that. Some people refer back to time management skills--getting really good with prioritizing. Uh, some people like to do problem solving, which may involve talking with others and how they found that solution. In our American culture, sometimes I think we grasp at a straw that really isn't there when we think we have to be perfect in everything that we do and we don't want to show weakness when Lo and behold another person that you could actually call or email has the solution to your problem. And you've been sitting there spinning your wheels. Don't invent another mouse trap. Why go through all that effort? OK, uh, and then some people do just increase their effort. They realize, you know I started this and I thought it was going to be so easy during this period of time where I'm at home and I can do, you… No-No-No-- some people really legitimately say ‘You-know-what? I have to up my game. I may have to up my game in learning something new about Zoom or learning something new about these podcasts’ or whatever the case may be. And so, take that on as a challenge. That is a problem-focused solution. And then one last one in this area is what I call positive self-talk. Many people have kind of in between their two ears, their own worst coach where they are always negatively browbeating themselves. They're getting down on their efforts and really to be quite honest with you, cut yourself some slack. You know no one’s perfect like I just mentioned before. So, give yourself a whole lot of grace and give yourself a whole lot of wiggle room and give yourself some of those mental pep talks. When things are starting to go South, you can tell yourself, hey, I can do this and I can. I can find a solution here and those would be what I would call those problem focus solutions. The other side of the coin is those emotion-focused solutions. And in this case, you're trying to regulate more your emotion rather than trying to actually solve the problem. And this can be difficult for a lot of individuals because you think in terms of if I focus on my emotions my emotions will get the best of me. Truth is guys, every emotion is a valid emotion to have. And what you have to reconcile is with that emotion, what is it telling me? And then if the stress level rises up, if you get to feel a little down in the dumps, you may realize that you know what I really can't control that stressor. I can't problem solve. I can't goal set to get around it. But I'm gonna have to manage my emotion to get around it. And that's what an emotion-focused strategy is all about. Things such as relaxation, meditation and something I call re-framing. When you can take a look at the circumstance and then you realize it's an obstacle. But if you re-frame it and say no, this is more of a challenge for me… this is an opportunity for me to learn and grow. Then that becomes a re-framing technique which then helps to take a little bit of that emotional tension out of the way. And then another
technique is just reappraisal. Sitting down--and you know you've done this. You make a list of pros and cons you know, and then you really start to see more objectively what this stressor has presented to you. But when you weigh out all the pros and cons, you realize you know what I've got a lot of... I got a lot more things going for me here in this situation than I had thought. And so, maybe what that does is it helps you to see a different aspect of the problem, which then helps you become a little bit more in control. One last final area that I want to go ahead and address right now too kind of in this coping strategy is helping your children learn to cope. And in that sense, there are a number of different kind of guidelines and a lot of them are going to be predicated upon the age of your child. You know your child's level, but couple of little tips and techniques you might want to keep in mind going through this. Number one. Always remain calm and reassuring. Whatever your child picks up and at whatever age, they are reacting to how you react. So, if there's some news article or something that's going on in on the TV that night and you respond to it, your children are very perceptive, and they may not be able to communicate what's on their mind. But in their actions and their reactions to your actions then that's going to give you a little bit of a clue. So, stay calm and be reassuring to your kid. Let them know that you know this is a type of disease that right now is affecting a lot of people, but you know a lot of people get sick from other kinds of diseases as well. What makes this one a little bit unique is that you can reassure them that as long as we continue to do the kinds of things that everybody is telling us to do… Wash our hands and watch out where we cough and stay inside and all those kind of rules, then things should be pretty good for us. And that's a reassuring comment to your child. Also, make time to talk. Go ahead and set aside some time when you know that they have questions and you may just want to ask certain kinds of questions that let them open up the conversation. You know instead of saying ‘hey, do you have any questions about this virus is going around?’ There's only two answers; yes or no. That does not extend the conversation one little bit. But you could ask them, ‘hey, tell me what you think about this virus pandemic that were in and let me know what you're thinking.’ And again, the older the child, the more open-ended question that can be. But usually, you just give it to them at their level, and they're very understanding that what they hear on TV, what they may hear on the podcast or radio or some sort of social media you know you can actually spot that they've got that anxiety and make that time to talk so that you then can be their sounding board to kind of reassure them. Also bone up. Be honest with your kind of information back to them. Not your opinion. But like I mentioned before, when you can go into that information gathering mode, you can do that not only for yourself, but you can help sometimes clear up the information that your child may be getting from their contacts on social media. Be accurate, be honest in all of that kind of communication. And then finally, and I think this works for all kids of all ages, just teach them that their everyday choices and actions are geared right now to so we don't spread these germs. And these are things that they can control. You can teach them how to wash their hands. And it's probably a good idea to say it's not only because of this virus. Guess what's going to happen next fall and winter? We want to wash our hands 'cause we don't want to get the flu. We don't want to pass around colds. You know, those are things that kids can pick up on and realize that they have some amount of control in all of this. And we probably should have been doing a lot of these kinds of behaviors anyway. But at the at, but the bottom line is, is that if they practice these kinds of skills to maintain good personal hygiene, it is going to also be set… It's going to help them to be ready for their mental wellness in that ‘I'm doing the best that I can and mentally, I'm feeling pretty good about washing my hands and steering clear and following the rules that are all around me.’ And so I think that that's probably a really good summary of what parents can help their kids understand about this. This COVID-19 and virus pandemic that we have.
Host: These are some really helpful ways to help you get out of the rut. But unfortunately, our mind can take us into places where we really don't want to go. And self-help measures just aren't working. So, what should I do in this instance?
Dr. Schriver: Yeah, when you’ve determined that your own self-help measures just aren't cutting it and they’re not helping you cope, you have to know that there is professional help available--even in this quarantined environment where you find yourself right now. Very likely you probably will not be able to go to some sort of counselor or therapist calling them up and going to their office, because why--we've got quarantines in place. But, the world of psychology and therapy and counseling has moved into what we refer to as Tele-Health. They're able to deal with these kinds of situations in many with many different kinds of problems that might come up--where you find yourself more than just stuck in the rut; you really find yourself that maybe the anxiety is overwhelming you and you can find with a good little Internet research of maybe counselors within your area who offer that Tele-Health or that tele-therapy kind of service. And in doing so, they would be able to speak to you over the phone. They’d be able to speak to you, maybe in some sort of visual kind of connection and be able to take a look at what you are going through in the world of that anxiety. The other thing that you would realize is that if you start to sense a kind of an emotion of depression…Anxiety is typically about being nervous and having a lot of worries…but depression is usually something that, when it when it starts to set itself in, you start to feel blue and you start to lack a little bit of energy and it may disrupt your sleep or it may disrupt your you know your eating patterns. And, and, you really start to feel a little bit more helpless about the situation and so that depression starts to set in. And when it does, you would realize that again, professional help is available. And the key is, is to look for those individuals on some sort of Internet site. You can go to some of the perhaps the counseling centers that are in your area that have websites and you'd be probably surprised to know that they have already kind of transitioned towards this tele-health tele-therapy kind of environment. Truth be told, I'll just put this little caveat in there... Uh, this is an accepted form of therapeutic strategies that psychologists can do. There is a way to protect your identity with certain kinds of software that is used by these kinds of psychologists or therapists. And so, you would feel very comfortable and being able to share with them online and not have anything of privacy or personal nature you know, that would be violated in that such a way because they have to keep up with those standards as well. And, uh, I would also like then to leave you with some pretty good websites uh, that you could actually go to their national websites. But then they would also have the ability to kind of give you some thoughts about what it is you're going through. I would start off with that Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It really is like a database of resources. As you can tell by the title of that organization, they deal primarily with anxiety and depression and what are those symptoms of those particular kinds of mental health issues… And then you can start to look at if I have X-number of those kinds of symptoms, maybe it is time for me to make that call because the nervousness and my anxiety has gotten the best of me. Then you have the Centers for Disease Control--CDC. They have the website. It's a government website, but when a lot of people overlook is not only do they have the physical and medical elements of this virus on that website--and we hear from them practically every day--but they also have a tab where you can go there and look at the mental health side of things as well. If you go there, you'll probably realize that even a number of things that I spoke about today will be on that website because I utilize that website. It's a valued source, but I didn't go into all the details, so you may want to hit that particular website up for the Center for Disease Control--but look at the mental health component. And then there's another really good one that I use because of the work that I've done in substance abuse. It's called the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It is SAMHSA.gov another governmental website. But they also take a look at the anxiety issues...anything that might prompt depression…things that might also prompt any kind of substance abuse…because some people will try to handle some of that stress with some sort of drug taking behavior. And that may actually lead you down a little bit of a erroneous path. So, they have the ability to kind of help you size up or sum up what I would refer to as recreational drugs in the past…recreational medicines in the past ‘might I be over relying on them?’ But given that particular stance that that organization has, they are a very mental, health-oriented kind of organization. And so again, a lot of those little buttons that you can click on giving your symptoms, you would realize you know this is not something I'm really coping well with right now, but they would help provide you some resources so that you could reach out. I just want everybody to know. Basically, as I kind of wrap this up, we are certainly not alone. You know, there are certainly others that we can contact and we can use. But just because were isolated doesn't mean that we're in isolation. And so, reaching out is a very big key. And if you've been blessed with a positive dispositional personality, then good for you. But maybe you should also be that reference point that some people can look to, uh, you know ‘how are you getting through’ and you could help problem solve that individual. Some good self-tip self-help techniques are available--that previous list that I gave you. I truthfully-- you could Google any one of these terms: meditation, relaxation, goal setting. You could Google anyone of those terms and you'd be able to find a way that you could get some additional help so that you can kind of help cope in this time of stress--and in some people’s world--crisis with this coronavirus. But remember, anybody who's struggling...Help is just a phone call, website or maybe another person away. And so, I would encourage you to take up that and see if you can get on that path of good mental health in good mental correction.
Host: All very good information. And we'll have this list of resources and other items of interest on our website as well. Go to members first dot co-op/podcast and look for the mental health tips in the description of this podcast. Dr. Kevin Shriver, Dean of the College of Education and Social Sciences and professor of psychology at Southwest Baptist University. Thank you so much for your time and your expertise today on this very important topic.
Dr. Schriver: Thank you very much and I hope it serves people well.