Story by Sara Paul
The ominous newscasts are constantly in the background; human interaction is almost entirely limited to social media; the kids are stuck at home; and even routine activities like bringing in the mail have become adventurous endeavors.
While a strong Warwick community is coming together in many ways, the elevated stress levels are taking their toll. In order to mitigate this uncertain environment, there are many ways to keep cool, calm and sane in the midst of the COVID-19 health pandemic. Health and wellness experts as well as residents have weighed in on the importance of keeping one’s mental and physical health in check.
Make Time for Exercise
Most health professionals agree that the best way to combat anxiety is by finding some way to incorporate exercise into their daily routines. Whether indoors or outdoors, old or young, people are urged to get their bodies moving!
“Exercise is very important, and we are lucky to be in the country in spaces that are far apart. It’s tougher in the city. It’s time to get a hobby, listen to music, and people absolutely must get exercise, or they will have trouble sleeping,” said Dr. Gerald Freisinger, who walks with his sweetheart, Peg, and their dog, three miles a day.
Warwick Psychologist Sondra Tuckfelt, PhD, agrees that, “It’s hard to be anxious or depressed when exercising.”
“Physical activity is very important to reduce anxiety. Anxiety is a physical as well as a mental reaction to fear, so that when you move around the intensity of your worries lessens,” recommends Dr. Tuckfelt, who suggests daily practicing of Yoga, dance, or taking a brisk walk.
Warwick’s own certified personal trainer and nutritional coach Tom Sobotor is adamant about adherence to any kind of physical fitness.
“During these unprecedented times, people’s stress levels are naturally higher than normal. Taking the time to get out and go for a walk or exercise is extremely important. It is also a good time to possibly start some new routines. With so many being forced to work from home, people can squeeze in that quick jog or weight session,” Sobotor said.
Move Your Work-Out Online
Whether it’s dancing solo with some YouTube music videos or meeting up with fellow gym members for a cardio session, the online options for keeping fit are limitless.
Sobotor is owner of Sobotor Training Systems (STS) for the past three years and has moved his fitness STS operations completely online, offering remote training mainly using an application called TrainHeroic.
“The app allows me to program and plan, following our normal training schedule, monitor how people are doing, and make individualized plans for all members. The response has been terrific. We also opened our doors by appointment and lent out equipment so people can enhance their at-home workouts,” explains Sobotor, a Warwick native, who runs his business with wife, Sarah.
STS member Kim Corkum exclaims, “I don’t think anyone can stress enough how important it is for us and our kids to stay positive. Get your work out in. Get outside and enjoy nature. Eat healthy so your body has what it needs to fight.”
Meditation for Relaxation
Dr. Tuckfelt highly recommends meditation as a means of focusing on breathing and shifting one’s focus away from the current global situation.
“When we take air in and out slowly, our body becomes invigorated and enriched. It’s focusing on our life and emptying the mind of the worrisome conflict. We let in peace, and that is a restorative activity,” said Dr. Tuckfelt, a Warwick resident who has had a private practice in town for 35 years.
Village of Warwick resident George Arnott, 78, was trepidatious at first, but after starting his at-home meditation program already feels the benefits.
“I never believed this was for me, but I feel so much better after doing it as it makes you focus on your breath and keeps you in the now. The power of now is the key to dealing with any obstacles and it shows that how you react to situations is the key to clarity and success. In these times of stress and such a different way of life with the pandemic I would recommend to all who want to try it. I feel so much better and centered,” said Arnott.
Limit Exposure to News
Rewind and repeat: Limit exposure to news! Health professionals definitively agree that less is more when it comes to ingesting gargantuan bites of information about the current health issues.
“The information doesn’t change every hour, yet people check it every hour; TV and the internet are surely a steady source of anxiety,” notes Dr. Tuckfelt, who suggests going straight to a credible organization’s website like CDC.gov, rather than “listening to news fragments.”
Dr. Freisinger warns that, “Cable news networks will make you nuts. Just watch a little in morning and a little in the evening.”
He suggests that people should, “Occupy your mind with other things such as online games like Jeopardy or watch some good movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Cut away from the news from time-to-time. Get a general idea of what’s going on, but don’t obsess about it.”
Consider a Furry Friend
Caring for a pet can lend significant benefits for mental health. For those who may be feeling lonely, Dr. Tuckfelt recommends contacting the Warwick Valley Humane Society to adopt an equally lonely companion. While indoor pets like cats are ideal for seniors and other individuals who are mainly indoors, more rambunctious animals like dogs can bring positivity to those who have large backyards and open spaces.
“People laugh when they play with animals. That laughter breaks into anxiety and depression,” Dr. Tuckfelt said.
The Warwick Valley Humane Society is currently accepting adoption applications online. There are no public hours, no volunteers or walk-ins, and visits are by appointment only. Visit www.wvhumane.org for more information.
Dangers of Stress Increased in Uncertain Times
On a good day, one can still feel the pressures of society and life. In the current chaotic climate, however, stress can pile up to an overwhelming level.
Dr. Freisinger notes, “Stress exacerbates underlying issues and contributes to conditions like high blood pressure and asthma. It’s important to practice anything you can do to remain calm and have patience.”
According to Dr. Tuckfelt, “For older people and people not feeling well, this stress may turn into death anxiety. People can’t think straight when they are anxious. They tend to overreact and are not clear in their decisions.”
For individuals seeking teletherapy, Dr. Tuckfelt recommends contacting one of the many qualified local psychotherapists in Warwick or contacting the Hudson Valley Center for Development at 787-1350.
“We need to have communication with others whether it’s on the phone or via video chats. This is really about physical distancing, and not about social distancing. Nothing is more important than staying in touch with family and friends,” she said.