Maintaining recovery through COVID-19

In the treatment community, it’s said that social isolation is addiction’s worst enemy. Those struggling with substance use disorder may be at heightened risk for relapse during Colorado’s stay-at-home order that has closed gyms, recreation centers, libraries and other facilities that many rely upon as healthy social outlets to safeguard their sobriety.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, social media has provided a steady stream of memes about people soothing their fear and anxiety with alcohol, intending to lighten our mood. No one would argue that we could not all use a lift right now.  However, for people in recovery – particularly those early in their recovery journey – the message could be perceived as a hall pass to use during this unprecedented period, like a “loophole” in the 12-steps. 

Balance

Maintaining healthy life balance is a no-brainer. We all know what we’re supposed to be doing right now. A disciplined balance between work and social activities, between online entertainment and physical exercise, between healthy food and treats. We know. The state’s stay-at-home order has knocked the guide rails off our daily routines, altering the rhythm of our weekly schedules and making life balance difficult. Difficult but doable.

It’s time to be intentional about what we eat, when we move our bodies, how frequently we connect with friends and family, when we go to bed and when we wake up. Tapping into available resources designed to support recovery, coupled with intentional self-care strategies, will help people to maintain recovery during this trying time.

Resources

With some willingness to try an untried strategy, there’s a wide range of resources readily available to support anyone seeking sobriety. Online Intergroup offers virtual AA meetings in more than a dozen languages. Take advantage of this extra time to shop around for good podcasts focused on supporting sobriety, like The Bubble Hour and The ODATT Chat Podcast. Search for free guided workouts on YouTube – there’s a zillion of them. 

Here for you

Community Reach Center’s Behavioral Health Urgent Care is open 24/7 for anyone who is concerned about having a relapse and wants to talk to a therapist immediately. No appointment is necessary. Walk-in services continue to be provided at Community Reach Center locations in Thornton and Brighton for new clients. Visit www.CommunityReachCenter.org for more information or call 303-853-3500.

At Community Reach Center, we believe that no one should be defined by a diagnosis, and no one should be judged for their struggle. We’ve got you.

Listening is key to helping others with grief

Life-changing events can happen at any age. This includes things such as the death of a loved one, newly diagnosed health problems and job loss. As people age, these events become more common.
Grief is a normal, healthy response to loss. Over time it can take a toll on emotional and mental health. It can even lead to depression. If you’re a caregiver or if you spend time with an older adult, you can expand your capacity to support them by helping your loved one cope with loss.

Path to improved well being

Understand the grieving process:
• There are common physical and emotional symptoms of grief. The grief and loss process is different for everyone. There is no “right” way to grieve. Each loss is different, too. Allow your loved one the time and space to grieve his or her own way.
• Listening is the most important thing you can do for a loved one. If you don’t know what to say, just listening to them makes a big impact. Your loved one may need to express his or her feelings. The daily act of processing loss can be overwhelming. Small tasks may seem exhausting. That‘s why an offer to help makes such an important difference. Don’t wait for your loved one to ask for help. Offer to do things like make dinner, pick up groceries or a prescription, do laundry or clean.

Things to consider

The symptoms of grief and the symptoms of depression are similar. It’s normal for a person to feel sad after a loss. That is temporary. Your loved one may be depressed if:
• He or she doesn’t feel better as time passes.
• His or her emotions get in the way of daily life.
• He or she no longer takes pleasure in the things they used to love doing.
• He or she mentions or has thoughts of suicide.
What you can do to help a loved one who has depression:
• Don’t be afraid to remember the person who passed in fond conversations. This may help your loved one feel less alone.
• Avoid saying “I know how you feel” or he or she is “in a better place.” This minimizes your loved one’s feelings. Instead, say things like, “I know this must be difficult,” or “You don’t have to be so strong.” This helps draw out your loved one’s feelings.
• Just sit with your loved one. This can be comforting, even if he or she doesn’t want to talk.
If you notice any of these signs, you can contact the Senior Reach program for assistance. Therapists on the team can help treat the depression so your loved one can start to feel better.

Here for you

This column was contributed by Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center. It is important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. The Senior Reach provides treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. Please don’t hesitate to seek assistance.

Around the clock

Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. To learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

Getting the care you need via telemedicine

Keeping on top of your healthcare needs is now more important than ever, but due to the COVID-19 virus, you may be asked by your healthcare system or local physician’s office to avoid in-person visits.

Avoiding in-person visits helps control the spread of the virus and ensures that the most critically ill receive frontline care. But just because you may not be able to see your healthcare provider in person does not mean that you should not seek out medical care.

Telemedicine is a new reality for all of us. To make it easier to connect with your healthcare team, the federal government has temporarily expanded telemedicine services for Medicare beneficiaries to cover virtual visits. Virtual visits currently include various modes of interaction with your healthcare team including video chats and phone calls.

We’ve put together four key tips to help make your telemedicine visit as beneficial as possible:

Prepare for the Visit

  • Write down a list of your symptoms and concerns. Be specific.
  • Practice what you want to say. That way, you won’t leave anything out.
  • Write down a list of all medications (prescription and non-prescription).
  • Check your technology. (If you do not have a computer, tablet or smart phone, ask a family member or friend for help.

Find a Quiet Space

    • Turn off background noise such as TVs, radios and smart speakers.
    • Ask others in your home to keep the noise level down.
    • Allow yourself 10-15 minutes before the video/phone call to collect your thoughts.
    • For privacy, consider using headphones during the call.

    Tell Your Provider Everything

      • Summarize your condition, list all symptoms, and explain your concerns.
      • Share any changes in your medical history and any major life changes.
      • Provide any vital signs that you can such as blood pressure, pulse and temperature.

      Agree on a Treatment Plan

        • After your doctor tells you something, repeat it back in your own words.
        • Take notes and ask questions such as: What are the risks/benefits of treatment? Are there other ways to treat this? Will insurance pay? Will I need medication?
        • Agree on the treatment plan and any additional tests/medications.
        • Ask your doctor for resources and about follow-up visits.

        As with any physician visit, it’s ideal if you can have a friend or family member by your side. That person can be responsible for taking notes so that you can focus fully on your conversation with your doctor.

        Senior Reach at Community Reach Center is also utilizing this telemedicine model to ensure that the behavioral and emotional health of older adults are met during this time.

        If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please contact the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657 or visit www.communityreachcenter.org.

        Here for you

        This column was contributed by Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center. It is important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable.

        If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. The Senior Reach provides treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. Please don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours.

        To learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

        Stress, crisis and trauma

        All people have a different capability to cope with and regulate events that overwhelm us.  Think of the wide range of expression of emotions you’ve already witnessed during the COVID-19 epidemic. Stress of all kinds can create a self-defined crisis that invokes reactions like anxiety, depression, isolation and exhaustion. However, not all stressful or crisis events are traumas.

        One way in which a trauma differs is the continued impact on a person’s ability to self-regulate and the symptoms that they experience such as flashbacks, hypervigilance and feelings of detachment.

        By clinical terms, a trauma is any event in which a person experienced a threat to their life, serious injury or significant violence. Initial reactions to traumas are much the same as to a stressful or crisis event.

        COVID-19 impact

        The coming of the COVID-19 surely raises the types of stressors that contribute to trauma. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) notes that stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

        • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
        • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
        • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
        • Worsening of chronic health problems
        • Worsening of mental health conditions
        • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs

        Don’t hesitate, take quick action

        If you or someone you know is feeling great stress due to COVID-19, whether you would consider it a “crisis” or something lesser, remember Community Reach Center operates the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center at 2551 W. 84th Ave. in Westminster. It is open 24/7.

        The BHUC team is comprised of trained mental health professionals available 24/7 to help individuals of all ages who are experiencing: thoughts of suicide, depression, overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety, feelings of harming oneself or someone else, an increase in drug and alcohol use and family crises.

        People may also call 1-844-493-TALK (8255), or text TALK to 38255 to speak with a trained professional at Colorado Crisis Services.

        At home, show you care

        There is an old expression that charity begins at home. One way to interpret the saying is to care for your family first. Take care of those close to you. Help them cope with stress and from there branch out and look for opportunities to make your community stronger.

        That means just tuning into what those around you need, whether it involves cooking for them, taking over some chores, or facilitating conversation with others over the phone or social media. Encourage others to unwind and perhaps not watch news all day long.

        Just do your best. Simple. And keep in mind this comforting note in the Mental Health First Aid USA manual which reads “When talking to a person who has experienced a traumatic event, it is more important to be genuinely caring than to say the right things.” Like so many other activities, Mental Health First Aid courses have been canceled due to social distancing practices, but please watch for these opportunities later in the year to take a free class and learn more about all aspects of mental health.

        Recognize resilience and prevention

        Most people have various levels of resilience on their sides. Young people face many challenges when going through their teens, but they tend to have good resilience to bounce back as they are growing and developing.

        Further, there are ways to increase resilience through positive thinking and positive self-talk. Just as training the physical body to be stronger helps to prepare for life’s eventualities, there are ways to become more mentally fit for all the challenges life brings our way.

        Want to learn more?

        A special webcast presentation titled “Understanding the Impacts of Trauma on Wellness” by Community Reach Center Clinical Senior Manager Jaime Brewer, MA, LPC, will be April 23.

        Brewer has worked in the behavioral health field since 2010. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Colorado College and her master’s degree in International Disaster Psychology from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology. She is also a board member and secretary for the Crisis Residential Association.

        Her presentation will cover the types of trauma – “without going too deep,” she notes – and how trauma affects the brain. She will also give special emphasis on techniques to gain resilience. To register for her 3:30-5 p.m. Thursday, April 23, webcast, please go to the following Eventbrite link and click on register.

        Here for you

        It is vitally important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know mental illness is treatable. Please don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please call the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.