Better Choices Better Health® Provides Support During COVID-19 Pandemic
By Dawn Menning
Lately, there has been a lot of discussion in our Better Choices, Better Health® (BCBH) workshops about COVID-19. Not surprisingly, in addition to the coronavirus directly increasing stress and anxiety levels, changes to normal life like orders to shelter in place have forced our participants to adjust their normal self-care habits. We all are thinking creatively in order to do the things we need to do to manage our health. The incredible combination of self-reflection and peer-led structure of BCBH has served as a platform for our participants to tackle the impacts of COVID-19. Some have been worried about reducing stress levels, knowing the impact stress can have on blood glucose. Others have found the scheduled disruption taking its toll on exercise routines and eating habits. While others are having trouble managing the separation from family and friends.
Living with a chronic condition has always been to a very large extent about self-management in collaboration with medical care and advice. However, at this time when the healthcare delivery system is strained dealing with COVID-19, and it is even more difficult to access care for those trying to monitor or manage a chronic disease, self-efficacy, resilience and self-management are even more important. Clinics and community program that help patients monitor and manage their health, provide nutrition services, or give social support are just not as available. During these unprecedented times, our passion to provide digital peer-driven, self-management programs feels more important than ever and we’re seeing firsthand the impact our programs are making.
One of the key skills that participants learn in our workshops is problem solving. The steps used in problem solving allow participants to identify a problem, list ideas, and select one to try. Problem solving works well in small groups where individuals with shared experience on a topic can contribute ideas that they have been thinking about or have tried themselves. The contributions of multiple workshop members provide’s validation that the problems and challenges are shared. The solutions become relatable because they come from others who have had a similar problem.
Here are some examples of how participants are leveraging the group:
A participant’s question about how others avoid becoming overwhelmed by all the news brought this useful tip:
Due to the constant amount of information about the Coronavirus, I am feeling stress and anxiety. I am working at keeping the amount of the information coming in through the TV and print at a minimum but am still caught by the need to know developing news. The idea to only look at news in the morning and then go on with my day has really been helpful.
Participants are looking to each other to help stay healthy as we saw in this question about changing work patterns:
Last week we received notice that we would be working from home for the foreseeable future. While at work, the water cooler is right across the hall from my desk, and so it’s within sight–essentially a visual cue to drink water. Now that I am working from home, it’s been more difficult to drink water. What are others doing to make sure they stay hydrated?
And participants really appreciate the advice and support as exemplified by the following comment:
I chose to try BCBH to find help with chronic anxiety and depression and I have seen improvement in my overall mental health following completion of the workshop. I have begun immediately shutting down negative thoughts during my day and repeating a poem or some other verse I have chosen to memorize. The facilitators were very empathetic. Their support and kind words were very helpful.
We have noticed in the last few weeks that lots and lots of problem solving has been happening around Coronavirus and its impacts. Workshop participants staying at home and working to stay healthy are being very creative about it. Our participants are throwing virtual birthday parties to stay connected to friends and family. They are setting limits around the amount of news they consume to reduce anxiety and fears. They are working at a slower pace and taking time to look at the stars, cuddle with their kids, and focus on the things and people in their life that are important to them. They are trading in the gym for walks with their family, watching online exercise programs, and using cans and water bottles as weights. They are learning to ask for help, and seeing the kindness and humanity in their neighbors. And we see directly how the experiences of participants spread to others and how that support is improving health – both physical and mental.
Given the long-term outlook of this pandemic, our participants are preparing to use all the ideas and support that fellow workshops peers have generated. We are commitment to giving our participants a forum for using their problem-solving skills. In the coming weeks and months we will be hosting webinars, live chats, and discussion to help keep the ideas coming.
Hoping you are staying healthy and well in this tough time. And please know the support and shared-wisdom of your friends – of your peers – can be very powerful to help you stay healthy.