Elie Y. Katz, Teaneck’s deputy mayor and town council members Mark Schwartz and Jim Dunleavy organized a series of calls helping people cope. Susan Greenbaum, the CEO of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey, gave some advice; here is some of it.
Prioritize social interactions. Social distancing is necessary, but it does not have to mean isolation, and that applies to people of all ages. If you have children at home, plan family time and ask them how they would like to tailor it. Structure listening and play time with them.
It’s also especially important to support the elderly and people who live alone. An added benefit of focusing on others is it diminishes the amount of time we have to worry about ourselves. Call people who are older, alone, or compromised. Just because they are living alone doesn’t mean they have to be lonely.
Validate feelings. This is a time when there are many things to worry about that are beyond our control. Children and teens are missing such rites of passage as school trips, plays, and religious ceremonies for which they have prepared. They may be upset about losing out on experiences that were cancelled. They are worried, stressed, and grief-stricken when people get sick or die from the virus. We can’t control the circumstances but can control how we respond to feelings of loss. Share your experiences and validate other’s feelings by carefully listening. It’s normal to feel anxious, angry, or sad. It’s how we process these emotions that can result in positive mental health for us and our families.
Create structure. Parents are expected to home-school their children while juggling it with their own work responsibilities. A work project due at the same time a child has an assignment can lead to frustration and anxiety. Institute a structure and follow a daily routine. Families should problem solve together and see conflicting demands as challenges, not problems.
Technology, the media, and mindfulness. Be mindful of managing media exposure — interacting with the media and technology is something you can control. Abstaining from constant exposure to the repetitive news cycle can help reduce anxiety. Create device-free times throughout the day, during meals, and before bed. If your children have questions, respond with age appropriate facts, and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know.
Use devices to connect to others, including FaceTime with family, a book club meeting on Zoom, and online exercise classes; have a glass of wine or coffee or cook with a friend on FaceTime, or perhaps go on a virtual date. Social distancing does not eliminate the human power of connection. Take time on your own to connect with yourself by practicing such things as meditation, breathing, exercise, yoga, or any other activity that calms and interests you.
JFCS of Northern New Jersey is here to help you. If anxiety, depression, or fear becomes too difficult to handle on your own, reach out for help. For a true emergency, call 911. If it’s not an emergency, call the JFCS helpline at (800) 541-6076 on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon and from 7 to 9 p.m. For access to tele-therapy call JFCS at (201) 837-9090 for an initial consultation at any time.
JFCS food pantries in Teaneck and Fair Lawn remain open and the Kosher Meals on Wheels program is still active.