How do we keep hope alive when all around us is full of chaos? Well, this brings me to this blog as I try my best to write under so much stress as the world, the United States, and my home state of New York are battling the Coronavirus. I am living day to day in a state that is experiencing a high rise of COVID-19 cases daily and so many deaths a day. I hurt and cry when New York hurts and mourns the loss of others. Currently, I live in Nassau County, NY and I am an immigrant born of Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa. I graduated from High School in Brooklyn, NY. I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Nursing in 1997 and Master’s in Mental Health Psychiatric Nursing from State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2009, so New York has been good to me. I had my first child at New York University Hospital in 2002. I am a Registered Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry and I have been in the field of nursing for 23 years.
I am also a proud former Army First Lieutenant who was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and was on active duty during 9/11. I know the chaos New York again experienced during 9/11. That same tension was high as well being in an army hospital in Washington, DC when the Pentagon was struck as well. I have never been to combat, but I have taken care of the most complex medical and surgical cases as a result of combat. I left my civilian job as a Registered Nurse in Manhattan at Beth Israel Hospital to serve my country. I have never seen so much chaos and uncertainty in the medical field as I see in today’s new normal with the war on COVID-19. As I listen to the news and other health professionals, I’m reminded of this new reality. I have aided NY once in the Blizzard of 1996. I am always here to assist again with providing telehealth services since I have recently volunteered to help. My expertise is now as a Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry. I founded my practice as a testament in dealing with my own adversities of challenging health issues.
It is times like this when our faith is tested, and we have no one and nowhere else to lean on or turn to but God. As a woman of faith, I am here to help with a new faith-based mental health practice in Nassau County, NY. (https://copingnpservices.com/)
The Bible says in Hebrew 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Basically, the Bible is saying that we should not lose hope during uncertain times like this with the Coronavirus pandemic. I know it’s hard to feel hopeful about the uncertainties of life when you hear of so many morbidities and mortalities. We must not allow fear to win and drive the most valuable ingredient needed to survive such as keeping HOPE alive. God is the great physician. He created the wonderful medical and technological resources to use alongside our faith, which can be used together to improve this situation. We must adhere to the medical recommendations of staying home and social distancing. In addition, we should practice proper hygiene that some of us have been taught from our childhood. We must remember to wash our hands and keep them off of our faces due to increased risk of spreading germs/virus. We must use hand sanitizer as needed. We must self-quarantine if we begin to have symptoms or are exposed to anyone with Covid-19 to prevent the further spreading of the virus.
We must not allow fear, anxiety, depression and despair to overtake our minds. We are no good to anyone including ourselves if we allow fear and despair to incapacitate us. We must tap into our strength to combat the war of COVID-19 versus our weaknesses. Who told you that I am not afraid too? I sure am due to these uncertain times, but I have chosen to hold on to hope. This keeps me of sound mind to prevent me from distorted thoughts of impending dome as many are experiencing. I have learned as a Christian through trials and tribulations that some things, we simply don’t have control over. So the sooner we all learn this, the better off we can refocus our minds to reframing positive thoughts of hope and support for one another despite despair and doom. The Serenity Prayer states God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. This is the reality of accepting things as they are and learning to exist and coexist with them by using our strength as a coping mechanism.
We are more resilient than we give ourselves credit as human beings. Many of us have been ill with other diseases that we have fought. So let’s do the same with COVID-19. We must recognize the signs and symptoms and consult with your practitioners or follow-up with emergency care when needed. Yes, it is a contagious disease but again we must keep the hope alive and fighting spirit to battle the disease. We must not allow fear to tell our minds that this is a death sentence if we contract the illness or have the illness because this will lead to being hopeless and loss of will to live. We must stay hopeful and positive to live another day to tell the story about being a survivor of COVID-19. Fear can lead to poor decisions so don’t live by fear instead keep the faith. Many of us have gone through challenging times in our lives, so we must be our brothers and sisters’ keeper and remain hopeful for the best. As the experts have been saying on television, quarantine does NOT mean isolation. Yes, we can have social distancing but we are blessed with the technology of today with virtual churches, virtual social groups, skyping and zooming or just picking up the phone to say hello. Our society don’t realize how blessed we are with these resources that others may not have, so make good on them. Let someone know how valuable they are to you in your life.
I know some people may have underlying challenging mental illness or substance use disorders that may be worsening; but it is times like this that you may need to utilize the non-traditional route with Telemental Health or interchangeably called Telemedicine. This option will allow you to speak to someone like myself who is a Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry to provide you psychotherapy, which is also known as “talk therapy.” In addition, integrated services of therapy and medication could be offered as well to help stabilize your mood or anxiety levels. You are not alone, so please reach out to someone if you need help. There is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached at 800-273-TALK (8255), to speak with someone too.
Some other positive coping skills that we can utilize as well are journaling our emotions. Journaling is a way of writing an experience to give you a sense of peace once releasing it from the mind. We can also engage in virtual physical exercises or mental health walks or running while keeping in mind social distancing. Exercise helps us release neurotransmitters, such as endorphins which naturally control pain in our body and other neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Increased serotonin during exercise improves our mood, decreases stress levels, and improves sleep too. Exercise will eventually decrease stress and anxiety levels and begin to give you a spirit of calm. Meditation, prayer, listening to music, and deep breathing exercises are good as well. Remember: healing is a holistic approach with mind, body and spirit. We also are what we eat, so we need a balanced healthy diet during this time to improve our immunity to fight off infections, so please do eat your fruits and vegetables along with proteins and carbohydrates. Also, it’s important to stay hydrated so make sure that you are drinking enough water and fluids enriched in vitamin C too. In addition, consult with your primary care physicians in taking vitamins, minerals and other supplements that will aid in boosting your immunity.
So remember a healthy mind, body and spirit is what we need to declare war on the Coronavirus. We must not be so scare or ashamed of the stigma or the thought of having Coronavirus that lead to anyone not seeking out medical and mental health intervention either. Throughout this blog, I have mentioned and shared some coping skills to begin to use as an armor for war against COVID-19. So let’s stay connected, hopeful and positive to overcome this crisis. I pray for healing over our mind, body and spirit and may God grant us protection and restoration. Lastly, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Napoleon Hill that states, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”