As winter approaches, Tower Health experts offer these tips about maintaining a positive attitude and protecting your emotional health. For many individuals, winter is an especially challenging time because depression often worsens as weather grows colder and there is less daylight. This season adds an additional challenge because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on both mental and physical health. As the pandemic enters its eighth month many individuals are facing intensifying stresses in family relationships, work, finances, school, and isolation.
“We’ve already seen an increase in depression and anxiety due to COVID-19 and we don’t want to see that trend continue,” said Stephanie Lee, Tower Behavioral Health CEO. “We know winter can be a difficult for season for people and we are here to help.”
Ms. Lee recommends establishing a relationship in advance with a behavioral health provider to help prepare. This proactive step will allow the patient and provider to get to know and other before stressors may worsen.
She added, “I also recommend individuals think about what activities they enjoyed early in the pandemic and find good alternatives. For example, if you enjoyed exercise look for an app or exercise video you can do indoors. You can also prepare by planning things with the other individuals who live in your home. Think about scheduling a weekly game night, a themed movie night, or working on a puzzle together. I also encourage individuals to celebrate the ‘little’ things. If your child gets a good grade on a test, celebrate with their favorite food at dinner. If it’s a friend’s birthday schedule a video call with cupcakes.” It will also be important to focus on individual needs. For that, Ms. Lee recommends scheduling personal time in the form of reading a good book or any other activity that quiets your mind and brings personal joy and relaxation.
As the pandemic continues recommendations from medical experts haven’t changed as to how to mitigate COVID-19 in communities. Individuals are still encouraged to wear a mask, wash hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap is not available, and practice proper social distancing. What is changing is the arrival of colder temperatures and less daylight, meaning less time spent outdoors. “We know a lot of individuals spent more time outdoors when COVID-19 arrived in our area,” said Eduardo Espiridion, MD, Chair, Department of Psychiatry at Reading Hospital – Tower Health. “We also know that nothing beats regular exposure to sunlight.” While that can be a challenge during shorter days Dr. Espiridion suggests scheduling a walk during your daylight hours or considering the purchase of a light therapy lamp.
While individuals are still practicing social distancing Dr. Espiridion recommends scheduling time to connect with family and friends. “Social interaction is critical. Making use of email, text messages, and telephone calls will be a great way to connect to loved ones. There are several social platforms that allow for video chat and virtual games to encourage social interaction.”
Both Ms. Lee and Dr. Espiridion agree that physical and relaxation activities will be important this winter. Walking, if weather permits, is an excellent physical activity. Yoga and breathing exercises are great relaxation activities during winter and can help alleviate the negative effects stress can have on one’s physical and mental wellness.
Ms. Lee added, “While we know it is imperative for individuals to monitor their behavioral health it is equally important to continue routine care for physical health. Many physicians saw a significant decrease in patient visits since the pandemic arrived in our communities. These regular visits will help maintain your health and may identify potentially serious health conditions.” Tower Health facilities are clean and safe for patients, visitors, and staff. Hospitals, offices, Urgent Care centers, and outpatient facilities have strict protocols to prevent the spread of infection to ensure thorough cleaning of clinical areas. All employees, patients, and visitors receive temperature screening upon arrival and must always remained masked.
“I also think it is important that individuals know the symptoms of anxiety and depression and seek help immediately if they occur,” said Dr. Espiridion. “Symptoms could include a change in a person’s sleeping, eating, or exercise routine, having little or no energy, overeating with weight gain, and a feeling that your limbs are too heavy to move.”
If you, or someone you know, is having thoughts of harming themselves or others, please call 911, Tower Behavioral Health at 888-905-0809, Berks County Mental Health Crisis Intervention and Emergency Services hotline at 877-236-4600 or Text ruOK to 484-816-ruOK (7865) immediately.
Tower Behavioral Health is accepting new patients and offering in-person and telehealth options for outpatient services. To learn more call 484-628-8070.
About Tower Health
Tower Health is a strong, regional, integrated healthcare provider/payer system that offers leading-edge, compassionate healthcare and wellness services to a population of 2.5 million people. With approximately 14,000 team members, Tower Health consists of Reading Hospital in West Reading; Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville; Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia; Jennersville Hospital in West Grove; Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville; Pottstown Hospital in Pottstown; and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, a partnership of Tower Health and Drexel University in Philadelphia. It also includes Reading Hospital Rehabilitation at Wyomissing; Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences in West Reading; home healthcare services provided by Tower Health at Home; and a network of 25 urgent care facilities across the Tower Health service area. Tower Health offers a connected network of 2,200 physicians, specialists, and providers across more than 230 convenient locations. For more information, visit towerhealth.org.