Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Submitted
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Tips to stay sane and healthy during the pandemic


April 30, 2020

Submission by Cheryl Smetana McHugh, LICSW, Executive Director of Therapeutic Services Agency, Inc.

I was surprised at my own reaction when I heard Governor Walz extend the school closure for the rest of this school year as I had totally been anticipating it. I felt immediately sad, even depressed and tearful which seemed like an over-reaction given that I had truly expected it. But in further evaluation of my thoughts and feelings at this news, I realized it was about the fact that this time of pandemic in America and MN and certainly close to my home community, is simply and fully an ongoing reality that the coronavirus is affecting our lives in so many ways. I am already weary of the word “unprecedented” but it is so poignantly apropos as we navigate this historical experience as a society and as individuals. I am trying to be aware of my own personal experience as I take in new information from national and state leaders, experts in the fields of medicine, science, crises management; economists, business leaders, educators, and mental health professionals. I am noting my own reactions, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, values, philosophies, faith, and coping skills. I am trying to be my best in “doing life” while realizing I, like others, am under a cloud of worry, stress, wonder, fear, apprehension, and uncertainty.

I am also listening every chance I get to how others are doing during this time. I appreciate talking with a parent who is at home trying their hand at teaching and supporting their child(ren) in this distance learning time. One loving parent confessed she had “ugly cried for a solid 10 minutes” when she heard the school closure was continuing. She went on to say she was “sad my kids are not being able to see their friends and finish the year with their teachers.” Graduating students from high school, college and military programs are seeing their anticipated celebrations upended. Couples planning weddings and marriage starts are planning for secondary wedding dates in case the first date is met with continuing social distance practice and group size caps. Business owners are in the throes of wondering what to do and how to continue when survival is the question. Cities, counties and the state are attending to budget changes and service need increases.

Other people have shared that they are missing all the things they use to do without thought: shopping, getting gas without worry that the virus might be lurking on the gas handle, getting together with friends, hugging people they care about, going to bars and restaurants, attending church in person, visiting their older parent in an assisted living setting or anywhere, going to work, coming home to kids and doing homework and supper time together, etc. Many people are faced with changes in employment from work habits to suffering layoffs. Working from home always seems to sound great but it has its challenges especially when children are also at home. A doctor at Mayo Clinic said he hasn’t talked with a patient in the past few weeks who has not reported sleep disturbance of some sort. I think most of us are missing our routines, our friends, our family members, our colleagues, our get-togethers, our enjoyment of parks, ballgames, concerts, and really the near-carefree-ness and freedoms of coming and going and doing in our lives that we took for granted.

Now we are facing a time of challenges, uncertainty and caution. None of us wants to become ill with the coronavirus. None of us wants our community or state to become a “hot spot.” None of us wants to lose a loved one, neighbor or become deathly ill ourselves. So how do we manage this time?

Here are some key guidance points:

• Stay connected with others through safe social distancing, virtual connecting (write a letter, send a note, phone, facetime, skype, zoom), and enjoy your household members because we know our relationships are key for our health and wellbeing. Enjoy your pet too!

• Stay healthy; safeguard from the coronavirus—be okay with wearing a mask, wash your hands routinely and well, eat healthy, get outdoors and enjoy nature and the weather. The promises of spring ARE showing—watch for them! Don’t forget you can take a walk, ride your bike, or go for a drive. Take care of your spirits, mood, and spiritual life.

• Stay informed by paying attention to the growing knowledge base we have about the coronavirus. Testing, diagnostic experience, and treatment successes are advancing our abilities to be prepared and manage the risk.

• Practice gratitude, be hopeful and notice the good in life. Notice the positive in people, places and things! Watch for and take in a joyful experience, savor it, reflect upon it, embrace it, hang on to it. If you don’t look for it, you won’t see it. One day I saw two children figuring out how to collect the family’s empty trash cans at the end of their driveway as neither were tall enough to reach the handles to roll them. Their ingenuity, teamwork and spirit were delightful, and I chuckled all the way home that I had gotten to see their success.

• Stay true-to-self and be aware of how you are feeling and how you are doing. Be kind, compassionate, and respect yourself; understand the reality of this time and these stressors, your strengths and your vulnerabilities. Evaluate your coping skills and if they are serving you well. If they are—great! If not, seek support. Therapeutic Services Agency, Inc is an experienced mental health service organization with professional therapists ready to help. Our offices are in Pine City, Sandstone, Lindstrom, Cambridge and Coon Rapids. We work with children, teens, families, couples and adults. We are open for in -person sessions with CDC health safeguards in place or we are happy to provide virtual telehealth services. For more information visit


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019