Frigid temperatures have set in and local mental health experts say the colder weather can bring on feelings of isolation, especially since people have been staying home because of the pandemic.
The temperature could drop to 15 degrees tonight. Friday is expected to be mostly cloudy, with temperatures again reaching a high of around 25 degrees, then falling to a low of around 13 degrees overnight, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
The NWS warned that on Sunday and Monday the region might see extremely cold temperatures and wind chills. Early forecasts call for a low of minus 2 degrees on Sunday night, with wind chills pushing temperatures further down. Monday night the temperatures could get down to just under zero, with wind chills again pushing wind chills down to the low teens below zero.
Julie Manuel, clinical program manager for Kettering Health, said it is important for people to try to stay active even in the cold weather.
“It’s tricky right now because we’ve been spending so much time inside already,” Manuel said. “Feelings of isolation can increase as the weather gets colder, so it is important to try to go out.”
Manuel said taking a walk everyday has helped some people feel better throughout the pandemic. Instead of taking a 20 minute walk, bundle up and take a quick five minute walk. If someone chooses to spend time outside in this weather, they need to take the necessary precautions, she said.
Extreme cold temperatures can lead to frostbite, hypothermia and other cold weather dangers within minutes if not properly prepared. Frostbite is the most common injury resulting from exposure to extreme cold. It most often affects fingers or toes. Redness or pain in any skin area is usually the first sign of frostbite. Skin may feel numb or unusually firm or waxy.
Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can be replaced. Someone who is experiencing hypothermia might be shivering, drowsy or have slurred speech. Wearing several layers of loose-fitting clothing, mittens, hat, scarf and a water-resistant coat and boots can help prevent frostbite and hypothermia. If someone’s body temperature is below 95 degrees, they should seek medical attention immediately.
If choosing to stay inside and away from the cold, Manuel said people should use technology available. There are plenty of online yoga or workout classes to try that can boost mental health.
“You could even try to use Tik Tok and dance,” she said. “Maybe you can Facetime a friend and do a core workout together.”
Manuel said using social media to connect can also help people feel less isolated.
“There are people who say ‘heck no’ when it comes to spending time outside in the cold,” Manuel said. “For those people, it’s important to call a family member or a friend and just check in so you don’t feel so isolated.”
Studies show that isolation can lead to more depression and anxiety symptoms, Manuel said.
Manuel said some other things she has been encouraging those struggling with their mental health to focus on are eating healthy, even if they’re not feeling well, and getting enough sleep.
Since many people are working from home or they have been furloughed or laid off, there has been more inactivity, Manuel said. People have gotten out of their regular routine because they’re only commuting from their bed to their home office. Manuel said people seem to not be getting enough sleep.
“You need a full seven or eight hours of sleep to go through the full sleep cycle. You also need enough sleep to deal with your emotions,” Manuel said. “We see people having a tough time dealing with their emotions because they’re tired. It’s hard right now.”
Manuel also encourages people to get out and volunteer where it is safe so that they can practice gratitude.
“Helping others helps us,” she said.
Manuel said she’s encouraging people to volunteer at a nonprofit or clean out their coat closet and donate the items.
“We’re not alone. We really are all in this together. And if we take care of ourselves and check in on our loved ones we can get through this pandemic and this cold weather together,” Manuel said.
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