COVID – 19 UPDATES

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Crafting a Calming Jar – For kids of all ages!

Sometimes when we experience big emotions like worry, anger, frustration, overwhelm or sadness, we can get stuck in our thoughts and feelings. We may feel disconnected from our environment, from our bodies and from the present moment. When these big emotions seem to overwhelm us, we can help to ease them by coming back into our bodies and the moment by noticing sensations through sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

These magical glitter jars are the perfect sensory toy for children and grown ups alike. Designed to soothe and relax, the swirling patterns created by glitter, water and optional additions are ideal for calming down a stressed out child (or adult, for that matter) – leading to their alternative name, ‘calm down jars’.

Crafting a personal glitter jar is a fun project to engage in and the result is a tool that can be used again and again.

Ingredients for Calming or Sensory Jars

  • Plastic or glass bottle or jar
  • Warm water
  • Glitter

 Optional (use whatever you have around):

  • Glitter glue
  • Vegetable oil
  • Clear liquid soap
  • Baby oil
  • Sequins
  • Watercolor or food coloring

Directions:

The main ingredients that are needed are the glitter, warm water and a bottle or jar of some material. Plastic bottles may be better for younger kiddos. The optional ingredients change up the movement of the sensory experience. 

To begin, fill the jar halfway with warm water. The warm water makes the combining of the ingredients easier. Next, place several tablespoons of your chosen glitter into the jar or bottle. Using a funnel can help with getting the glitter into a smaller opening. Put on the lid and shake until blended. Don’t be worried if this takes several minutes and keep on vigorously shaking. Once blended, fill the jar with warm water until full. If you’d like, you can super glue the lid or cap shut.

Adding additional emulsifiers like oil, glue or soap, can slow the movement of the glitter or create a lava lamp effect. Adding sequins, small toys, seashells or food coloring can enhance the look of the calming jar.

When your jar is complete, just give them a good shake, then watch until the glitter settles in the bottom of the jar to refocus and refresh an overwhelmed mind.

Julie Bond, LAMFT

What is teletherapy?

Telehealth meets Mental Health during a Pandemic

While teletherapy is not new, recent policy changes due to COVID-19 have reduced previous barriers and promoted access to virtual services. Offering teletherapy is consistent with JFCS’ values of keeping everyone as safe as possible while this pandemic continues. Teletherapy gives you the option to communicate with a therapist on the telephone or video chat; you chose how your therapy works, the goal is to make it agreeable to your needs. When comparing virtual therapy with office visits, more than 63% of clients reported no difference in the overall quality of the service, according to a study published in January of 2019 in the American Journal of Managed Care.

Similar to traditional therapy, teletherapy with a counselor can support you with a range of issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship issues, trauma or chronic stress. Zoom, Doxy and Facetime are examples of platforms being used by healthcare providers across the country.

As a result of teletherapy, therapists have been welcomed into the client’s home, introduced to family members and their beloved pets. Adult clients report virtual sessions provide them with flexibility, making it easier to maintain appointments while being in the comfort of their homes. Clients have said that it is easier for them to open up, be vulnerable and talk about difficult issues when in their personal, comfortable environments. Children today are comfortable with technology which makes teletherapy very natural for younger clients.

Interventions are creative with hands on activities and interactive games. According to a 2012 Marketing Chart survey, 42% of teens are more comfortable sharing information and are even more open online than in person. American Well (Amwell) reported in 2017, that experiencing therapy inside the comfort of the home setting normalizes mental health care, and is especially useful for the generations of people who are accustomed to interacting with others online.

Here are a few suggestions to prepare for a teletherapy (phone or video) session:

  •  Make sure you are in a private space with no distractions
  •  Jot down questions prior to the session
  •  Keep paper and a pen close by so you can take notes
  •  Make sure you have good cell and/or internet connections

Teletherapy, either by telephone or video chat, is providing a crucial lifeline during this pandemic and JFCS is here to support you. If you are feeling a sense of loss, stress, sadness, relationship or parenting issues, please call 609-987-8100 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed therapists.

Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC (Director of Clinical Services)

Summer Heat Safety for Seniors

With summer in full swing and the pandemic limiting the number of cool places people can retreat to, it is extra important to review the essentials of summer heat safety. These tips are good for everyone to keep in mind, but are tailored specifically for seniors whose additional needs are not always included in traditional heat safety reminders.

  • Keep cool. Rest in the middle of the day when it’s hottest and do chores and yardwork in the early mornings or evenings. If you do not have air conditioning, close your blinds or curtains during the day to block excess sun from heating your home.
  • Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, sports drinks or juices as well as eating fruits and vegetables. Don’t only drink when you feel thirsty – this means you’re already on the road to dehydration, and many seniors experience a diminished sense of thirst that can keep them from always knowing when they need a drink. Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake as well in order to avoid their dehydrating (diuretic) effects.
  • Check your medications for side effects that may emerge in the summer.
    • Diuretics (prescribed for conditions like glaucoma, high blood pressure, and edema) and laxatives cause you to lose fluids and become dehydrated faster.
    • NSAIDs, some antibiotics and sulfonlyureas (prescribed for diabetes management) can cause rashes where your skin is exposed to the sun.
    • Antipsychotics (prescribed for psychiatric management or sleep) can dull internal senses and prevent you from knowing if your body is getting too hot.
    • Anticholinergics (prescribed for COPD, incontinence, gastrointestinal disorders, and allergies/asthma) can cause you to sweat less, preventing your body from cooling itself.
    • Beta blockers cause slower heartbeats, which can get in the way of your body’s ability to respond to heat stress.
  • The risk for heat-related illness increases with age and is even greater for those with health conditions such as heart and circulatory system problems, lung or kidney disease, infections, and those who are highly under- or overweight. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions to stay safe this summer.
  • Consider wearing a call button in case of emergencies. While some may find the idea uncomfortable, erring on the side of caution is a key part of summer safety. Another option is agreeing with a friend to check in with a phone call once a day.
  • Know how it feels to have different heat-related illnesses and what you should do about them.
    • Heat exhaustion: Occurs when your body is struggling to maintain your normal temperature because of the increased heat outside. If your body can’t release the heat faster than it accepts it, your core temperature will begin to rise. This situation is dangerous to your health and requires immediate action.
      • Symptoms include dizziness/feeling faint, loss of consciousness, excessive sweating, weak heartbeat, nausea/vomiting, muscle cramps, headache, pale and cool skin, and a temperature higher than your baseline but lower than 103°.
      • To treat, start by moving to a cool place and drink water slowly. When you feel well enough, take a cool (not hot or cold) shower or bath, or place cool, damp cloths on your neck, armpits, groin and forehead. Get help if your symptoms do not improve after an hour, you vomit or lose consciousness or are concerned that you will.
    • Heat stroke: your body has exhausted all methods of cooling itself down, and your temperature is dangerously high. The situation is extremely dangerous and requires emergency medical treatment.
      • Symptoms include dizziness/feeling faint, loss of consciousness, no sweating, rapid and strong heartbeat, nausea/vomiting, headache, skin that’s hot, red and dry, and a temperature above 103°.
      • If you get heatstroke it’s unlikely you’ll be well enough to treat yourself, which is why it’s so important to pay attention to how you feel before the situation becomes dangerous. To treat someone else with heatstroke, call 911 immediately – the longer a person has heatstroke, the more likely they will not recover or will have lasting damage to their body when they do. While you wait, follow the dispatcher’s instructions, which will most likely be to bring the person to a cool place and place cool, damp cloths on their armpits, neck, groin and forehead. Do not attempt to give them anything to drink, especially if they are confused or unconscious; the person may accidentally breathe in the fluid (aspiration) which is also extremely dangerous. Medical professionals will rehydrate the person themselves using IV fluids.

Samantha Goldfarb, Intern

Anxiety and Re-Opening during COVID-19

Readjusting to life during a global pandemic was difficult enough; now as businesses, dining and entertainments spaces reopen across Mercer County and NJ, moving though the different stages to reopen safely adds new stressors to our lives.

Thoughts you may be having, emotions you may be feeling, and answers you may be searching for…

What is the right decision for my family and myself?

My friends are comfortable, why aren’t I?

I feel ready to reenter but, my friends don’t, am I making the right choice?

If I rejoin society will I be putting my elderly parents at risk?

I am scared to reenter!

I feel stressed about what decision I should make!

My thoughts are going a mile a minute!

The truth is there is no right or wrong answer. This decision is an individualized choice. No one can tell you how you should feel or act. Everyone has different comfort levels and that is okay. It is important to not compare our self to others.

Be kind and have patience with yourself. Go at your own pace. Take some therapeutic deep breaths.  Stay hydrated and maintain balance with your nutrition. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping due to the many thought you are having listen to a guided sleep meditation.

If your anxiety seems to be too challenging to manage on your own please, please contact a professional for support. JFCS is offering daily Drop-In hours if you need a one-time consultation with one of our counselors. We are also accepting new clients for ongoing counseling, currently provided through teletherapy. Call us at 609-987-8100.

Mara Myerson, LCSW, LCADC

Teen Summer Series

Where remote learning offered new challenges for all students, the upcoming summer, without the expected activities and opportunities to gather, is filled with new obstacles. JFCS is proud to be offering a TEEN SUMMER SERIES including service, engagement and development opportunities for youth and teens. All sessions are open to any youth or teen interested in attending, teens can sign up for all, some or one of the sessions per their needs and preference.

MUST REGISTER IN ADVANCE, CLICK TO REGISTER NOW!

College & Career: For Grades 11+ Career Exploration Workshop Tuesday July 7, 7 PM

If you don’t know what to do with your major, or are unsure what to study, join us!

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 How Will You Serve? Sunday July 12, 1 PM

Discover ways to customize your summer service experience.

College & Career: For Grades 11+ College Perspectives Monday July 20, 7 PM

A panel of college students discuss their experiences after high school.

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 School Supplies Drive Sunday July 26, 1 PM

Kick off event for annual school supply drive, learn about needs in our community.

College & Career: For Grades 11+ Promoting Yourself & Your Skill Set Monday Aug 3, 7 PM

An interactive workshop to build your resume and develop talking points.

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 Challah Bake Sunday Aug 9, 1 PM

Create your own challah at home for Challah for Hunger.

Are your aging loved ones safe at home?

A recent article from AARP* told the story of a 70 year old woman, who had a medical emergency while out of town. According to the article, it required an “array of often-confusing calls and wide outreach to friends and neighbors that left her feeling vulnerable and terrified.” The article continues by outlining important steps to take if this should happen to you.

It is very helpful advice if you are physically and mentally capable of advocating for yourself, or if you have a concerns about an aging loved one who wants to remain in their home. Whether or not you are, the Secure@Home program can be an invaluable resource. Secure@Home is an aging-in-place program staffed by clinical social workers/geriatric care managers.

As a member of the program, if you do not have family or friends who could intervene on your behalf, you can list a Secure@Home care manager as your primary emergency contact. Though we do not make medical decisions for you, as a member, we would know who your medical care proxy is and how to reach them. We would have a list of your medications, physicians and additional emergency contacts. We would also have your advance directive on file and could transmit it to wherever you were hospitalized, and coordinate your follow up care with the hospital social worker. The Secure@Home program will follow you wherever you are.

We have received calls from people who are traveling and find themselves in a hospital. Sometimes their travel buddy or spouse calls us to find out what medications they are taking. And of course, when you are home, we will step in and manage your care locally. One of the AARP article recommendations was to “find a geriatric care manager” – and here we are! 

Andrea Gaynor, LCSW Geriatric Care Manager

Supporting those around you and caring for yourself

The COVID pandemic is a stressful time and is effecting people across the world. It can be confusing and hard to see someone you care about not acting like themselves. Taking on the additional task of helping a family member who is having a difficult time requires practical and emotional help. It is also important to ensure that your physical and mental wellbeing remain a priority; ignoring your own self care is a recipe for burnout.

How to help your loved one…

If a loved one is having a difficult time coping with worries, fears, stress or other emotions, it is important to acknowledge their concern; try to see things from their point of view, this will help you understand their perspective. Use effective communication skills with active listening by being engaged and interested in what they are saying.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

In addition, observe the non-verbal communication such as the tone of their voice, facial expressions or eye contact.

Allow the person space to vent, listen but do not give advice. You can help them do this verbally by giving them a sheet of paper to write down their fears and the best way to deal with them. Over time, the venting of emotions will slow or stop because you are not fueling the fire by disagreeing, correcting them, or by telling them that everything will be okay.

In difficult times we all need additional love. Have patience. Don’t blame or shame. Remember to be empathetic. This will lead to more honest conversations.

Provide hope, it can instill motivation and change someone’s perspective. Reframe the COVID outbreak and have a conversation about what this time is teaching us.

Aim to have opportunities to be together free of COVID conversation. Focus on connecting and strengthening your relationship. Take advantage of the time when your kids are not around and do something fun. Perhaps you can plan a date night; i.e. it can be a picnic in the living room. Plan a meal and cook together or play music and dance. Or, simply dim the lights and get comfortable on the sofa together. If you do not live with your loved one, consider safe opportunities such as a distanced, outdoor get together.

Recognize that there are limits to what you can do to support your loved one. You cannot “fix” them and it may be necessary that they receive professional help.

JFCS offers drop in hours Monday – Friday for a 30 minute session, or you can make a referral for outpatient counseling.

How to help you, the caretaker…

Self-care is a key component to overall positive mental and emotional health. In order to help those around you, it is important to identify your own feelings and emotions. Allow yourself to feel.

If you are personally feeling overwhelmed, journaling could provide you with a release and outlook on what you are going through.

Take time for yourself to reduce stress and unwind. Stay calm. Engage in mindfulness exercises, like adult coloring books/worksheets, reading, working on a hobby, or a relaxing bath. This time will allow you to re-energize as well as recognize that you are important and need to have time to yourself.

Consider joining a support group where you can connect with other people experiencing similar circumstances.

Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC

Returning to Work During COVID-19

If you are returning to work after being on family medical leave during COVID and have not experienced working from home, you might experience different thoughts and feelings. How will it be to work virtually from home? How will I create home and work life balance? What if I don’t feel comfortable sending my infant or toddler back to daycare? How will I work fulltime from home while caring for an infant?

I personally am feeling overwhelmed, guilt, stress, anxiety, sadness, grief. These are all appropriate thoughts and feelings you may experience returning to work after being on medical leave during COVID and you are not alone.

Tips to help with the adjustment of returning to work during COVID.

  • Be patient with yourself. It may take some time to adjust going to work virtually when the last time you worked was before the pandemic.
  • Talk to your support system about how you are feeling, you do not have to go through this alone.
  • Identify the coping skills that work best for you and have them readily available before you start working.
  • Be kind to yourself without judgement.
  • Take a lunch break to fuel your body and rest.
  • Schedule time for a walk to move your body and get fresh air. Identify what self-care looks like for you.
  • Create daily routine.
  • Pick a time you will stop working. Turn on a timer and end work when the timer goes off.

If you continue to have a challenging time adjusting back to working during COVID, contact a professional for support. JFCS is offering daily Drop-In hours if you need a one-time consultation with one of our counselors. We are also accepting new clients for ongoing counseling, currently provided through teletherapy. Call us at 609-987-8100.

You do not have to go through this alone!

Mara Myerson, LCSW, LCADC

JFCS Reflects on Year of Service, Before and During a Pandemic

Each June, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) convenes an Annual Meeting open to the greater Mercer County community. In light of coronavirus pandemic, JFCS has chosen instead to share a prepared video with the community documenting the agency’s service over the past year.

Video highlights include:

  • Reflection on the launch of the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry including the pop-up pantries that helped pave the way for distribution partners, the planning process to retrofit a food truck into a mobile pantry, and the first months in service, including an increased distribution schedule seen as result of COVID-19.
  • Recognition of the Senior Service team for their consistent support of older adults and commitment to addressing immediate concerns during the pandemic.
  • Acknowledgment of the Clinical (Mental Health Counseling) department for the service to the community prior to COVID-19 and expanded services in light of the pandemic. Expanded support includes Drop-In hours and webinars, virtual events, and blogs to share advice to the broader community.
  • Highlighting teen programs for providing an outlet for youth to connect, share experiences, and engage in community service projects during a difficult time when distanced from peers.

Parenting Post #5

Parenting Post #5: Quarantine Burnout – Parenting Edition

I will be honest, when thinking of what to address this week I felt I hit the metaphorical wall. It became one more task, one more check off the list for the week, and that thought was overwhelming. At this stage, many are struggling with quarantine burnout, “cabin fever,” or any other term one might have invented. And for parents, managing the day to day may seem like an increasingly insurmountable task. Remote learning certainly has positives, but right now, the negatives feel overwhelming – children are learning less than when at school, for young children most of the day is taken up with sorting out their video lessons, searching for emails and links to that one assignment you just can’t track down. It is exhausting, and you may find yourself more irritable managing these responsibilities. Adding to the mix now is summer break, what can usually be a time of relief and relaxation from the “everyday” stressors, now looms as yet another challenge.

What will you do with your children this summer? (see the links included below for a few options.) There are many recommendations and activities floating around the web, but few will carry you through an entire summer, a time usually filled with vacations, camps, and other organized activities, especially without the few hours of online learning that have kept children semi-occupied. The reality we are facing…Camp Mommy and Daddy. (I suggest giving yourself a moment to pause here and let that sink in.)

How do we manage the burnout, parenting, work and now camp counselor responsibilities?

One of the keys to mental health survival for parents during the pandemic is to not compare yourself to other parents, either personal friends or people on social media. You have you own parenting style, your own relationship with your children and you are doing the best you can. There may be the Instagram or Facebook posts of another parent weaving a swing set out of old t-shirts or baking countless seasonal treats – it is irrelevant to you. There is a strong chance those who look to be performing at peak, while still wearing makeup, have help and significant resources. Promise not to compare your pandemic performance to these standards! Holding yourself to these unattainable standards seen through filters will only have a negative impact on your mental health. If you are balancing work and distance learning, while attempting to keep a semblance of order in your home, have compassion for yourself, and only weave or bake when it is for you!

Another crucial key to survival is carving out time for yourself. If you do not take breaks, you will feel ever-worse. As noted in earlier posts, me-time is essential. Be kind to yourself and let go of the idea that you need to sacrifice your wellbeing on the altar of parenthood. Ultimately, this will negatively affect you and your children.  There is no shame in telling your partner that you need some time to yourself. Make sure that you are not using this time to clean or cook. Go for a walk, a run, meditate, bake for fun, garden, call a friend, or mindlessly scroll through your social media of choice (exercise caution as overindulgence in social media can increase stress.) Be open and talk to your partner and express your feelings of stress, exhaustion, burnout; chances are good that s/he is also experiencing something similar.

Do not pressure yourself to enjoy every moment with your children, because the reality is that these moments are not all “precious” but can be filled with demands. Yes, of course there are times that are beautiful and fulfilling, but to expect that you should enjoy all this extra time with your kids puts too much pressure on you and can lead to the kind of conflict that creates anxiety. For example, thinking: ‘I’m with my kids and should enjoy all this extra time before they are grown and don’t want to be with me,’ can lead to: ‘I can’t stand all the demands on my attention and time and feel I need to escape and join the circus!’

Find joy when it presents itself, and embrace it, but do not burden yourself with seeking it daily or hourly. It is unreasonable to expect constant joy and this notion can lead to feelings of guilt or underachievement. Ultimately, find some acceptance of the fact that you might shout occasionally and that you find lots of stuff tedious right now, but also allow yourself moments of grace. They will happen! Really.

For a deeper dive into the topics addressed above, watch my recent webinar “Pandemic Parenting: Tools for Now & After.”

Helpful links:

For how you feel about parenting in pandemic times:

  • Recommended writer, Jessica Grose—I read her recent article in New York Times and, three sentences in, actually said aloud: “hello, my new friend.” This writer gets it.

Burnt out on home schooling?

Mom-shaming ourselves

Camp Mommy/Daddy Planner – How to Host Your Family’s Own Personal Summer Camp

Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW

What are the Parenting Posts?

In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills.