Looking after your emotional health & well-being

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It is normal to feel concerned about COVID-19. Being asked to avoid and reduce human contact, to socially distance ourselves and to self-isolate goes against human nature. It is the opposite of what humans want to do in a crisis. This can affect your mental and physical health. However, there are many things you can do to mind your mental health and it is important to stay positive and focus on what can you do rather than what you cannot.

Firstly, being aware of your own emotions addressing how you think and feel, will help you in coping. Over the coming days, weeks and months people’s lives will change, but it is important to keep things in perspective as this will pass.

You may notice feeling

  • increased anxiety
  • feeling stressed
  • finding yourself excessively checking for symptoms, in yourself, or others
  • becoming irritable more easily
  • feeling insecure or unsettled
  • fearing that normal aches and pains might be the virus
  • having trouble sleeping
  • feeling helpless or a lack of control
  • having irrational thoughts

People with cardiovascular disease

People who have cardiovascular disease or who have experienced a stroke may be more likely to experience anxiety or stress in relation to the outbreak of COVID-19 virus. There are many reasons for this, such as the fact that you are in the at risk group for COVID-19 virus. You are at no greater risk of developing COVID-19 than anyone else. However, if you do contract the virus you have a higher chance of developing complications. 

Although the link between stress and the risk of heart disease and stroke is not well understood, we do know that stress can increase your blood pressure, impact on the blood clotting mechanism and result in people leading an unhealthy lifestyle. For example as a coping mechanism people are more likely to increase their caffeine intake, smoke, drink more alcohol and be less active when they are stressed.

If you have heart disease, being anxious or stressed may bring on symptoms like angina (chest pains).  If you do experience chest pains, please do not delay in calling 999 or 112. The emergency departments are still open for business as are all hospitals.

It isn’t possible to avoid stress completely but we can change the way we cope with it, particularly with of the outbreak of COVID-19 and the imposed control measures. 

Our top 5 recommendations for reducing stress and anxiety:

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1. Stay connected

Social support is proven to be an important factor in protecting our mental health against negative feelings. Stay in touch with friends and family using mobile technology such as WhatsApp, Skype and video calls. Telephone, text and email. Check in on elderly and vulnerable neighbours. Remember you don’t have to appear strong and try to cope with things on your own. Speaking to others and talking things through can reduce anxiety and worry.

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2. Limit your exposure to media

The constant stream of updates and news about COVID-19 can be overwhelming and cause increased anxiety. It can be difficult to separate facts from fiction. Use only trustworthy and reliable sources such the HSE and the Department of Health. Try to limit social media usage, set yourself times during the day to check for updates. If you are finding the COVID-19 coverage upsetting or too intense talk it through with a friend or family member. Remember much of the information online is driven by people’s personal opinion’s, beliefs and agendas and it may not be helpful for you to take these on as your own right now.

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3. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is closely linked to our mood and mental health, sleep disruption and poor quality sleep can negatively impact on your mood. Try to maintain regular sleep patterns it can be unhealthy to fall into bad habits such as going to bed later and getting up later. Changes to your sleep pattern now could impact on your mood in the weeks, months ahead. Try to maintain a routine scheduling daily activities throughout the day such as exercise and relaxing activities. If worrying feelings or thoughts are preventing you from achieving good quality sleep, try talking them through with someone.

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4. Maintain a healthy routine

Your normal daily routine may be affected by COVID-19, but trying to keep some structure will help. Pay attention to your needs and feelings during this time especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing. For example this may include regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques or reading a book. Try Chair Yoga with our incredible instructor, Vicky Harkin!

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5. Practice self-care

In times like this with the outbreak of COVID-19 we have a responsibility to ourselves to practice self-care. If we don’t practice self-care we will be of less use to ourselves and to others. Examples of self-care include:

  • cooking healthy nourishing meals
  • allowing yourself time to engage in the things you enjoy
  • taking time to relax
  • setting boundaries – such as saying no to visitors and reducing demands on yourself to prevent burn out
  • Practice mindfulness, meditation, walking or baking- small changes that you will be able to continue with post COVID-19

Try to keep things in perspective, things will get better.

Reflexology Helping Stroke Survivors

Excerpt from the 2018 Croí Annual Report

Penny Jones has been practicing complementary therapies for many years, and for the past six years she has worked with 800+ stroke survivors in Galway, in a Reflexology project funded by Croí.

One morning each week, Penny alternates her time between three stroke units: St. Anne’s Ward at University Hospital Galway, Hospital Ground, and Unit 4 at Merlin Park Hospital, meeting with patients who are recovering from acute and long-term affects of stroke.

The effects of stroke can vary widely and depend on what part of the brain has been injured. A stroke survivor may experience paralysis, muscle weakness or loss of sensation on one side of the body.

The Reflexology treatment supports the body’s natural healing process and helps patients recovering from a stroke to relax. “It works especially well before a patient receives physiotherapy as it improves circulation and the patient has greater awareness of the stroke affected part of the body,” says Penny.

Penny’s background is in Nursing and Yoga, which compliments her practice of Reflexology. “The hospital staff are so supportive and really see the benefits for patients. It’s a real treat for patients… I listen to their stories and the treatment allows them a chance to truly relax and feel at ease,” says Penny.

 

Read more about Croí’s Stroke Support services in our 2018 Annual Report!

What is Reflexology?
Reflexology was first practiced by the ancient Egyptians and is based on the principal that all the areas on the body are mapped out on the feet. During a treatment, the feet are worked on with finger pressure inducing deep relaxation, cleansing, revitalising and balancing the whole system.

Support Croí this Christmas!

“The loss of conversation has been one of the hardest things…
but sometimes John will say a word and it will make me smile.” – Mary Kelly

Take part in Croí’s Golden Ticket Raffle and help stroke survivors like John find their voice again. Great cash prizes to be won and you can make a huge difference to life after stroke.

It was Christmas eight years ago that everything changed for the Kelly Family. John Kelly, then a 48-year-old Garda Sergeant based in Loughrea, Co. Galway, suffered a massive, life-changing stroke. John was rushed to Galway University Hospital and he spent the next 18 weeks receiving care across three more hospitals. “It was a very exhausting time, and we had Santa come in the middle of that! I tried to make things as normal as possible for the children,” says Mary, John’s wife, speaking of their four children – the eldest twins were 13 years old and the youngest was just 6 years old.

Eventually, John returned home to his family in Cregmore, Co. Galway, but he was faced with the long-term effects of stroke. John suffered severe speech impairments, affecting how he speaks and his ability to understand what is being said. He was left with very few words.

John needed help. But so too did Mary, as a stroke carer.

“A family member read online about Croí’s Stroke Support services and we knew we had to get involved. John started with the Gentle Yoga class, before joining the Stroke Support Group and the Stroke Communication Group,” says Mary.

John now receives specialist support from the Croí Health Team, including biweekly communication sessions with Libby Kinneen, our Speech and Language Therapist. John first met Libby five years ago and he has made real progress in gaining confidence with life after stroke. “More words… friends,” says John. Mary also attends Croí as part of the Stroke Carers Group, “It’s so great to meet like-minded people. For my sanity it was so necessary to talk to other people. Life after stroke is so lonely, you feel isolated… Croí is a place to come and feel relaxed, and where no one will judge you.”

A huge milestone in John’s speech work with Libby was actually being able to say the word ‘Ballybofey’, a really important word for John as it is his wife’s hometown. “It meant something to John and Mary,” says Libby. The ‘Ballybofey’ breakthrough gave John confidence in his speech.

“Croí’s Communication Group has been wonderful for John,” says Mary. “Sometimes John will say a word and it will make me smile. But he might never say it again. The loss of conversation has been one of the hardest things.”

With thanks to generous donors, Croí is able to offer free stroke support services to stroke survivors, their family members and their carers. These services are totally supported by the funds we raise every year, including through the Golden Ticket Raffle!

Will you support our annual raffle and help us continue to support stroke survivors and their families, like the Kellys? Each ticket costs just €5 and there are so many great cash prizes to win, with a total prize fund of €5,000!

Tickets can be purchased here.

Thank you for your support!

John Kelly with his wife, Mary Kelly
John Kelly with his wife, Mary Kelly
The Kelly Family
The Kelly Family

World Stroke Day Event at Croí Centre

In recognition of World Stroke Day on Tuesday, October 29th, Croí, the heart and stroke charity, hosted a Public Talk and Short Film screening to help raise awareness of stroke and offer information to stroke survivors.

This FREE event included a talk by Dr. Tom Walsh, Stroke Specialist, Galway University Hospital and a local Galway stroke survivor, followed by a special screening of the award-winning documentary, A Tiny Spark.

In Ireland, approximately 10,000 people have a stroke-related event annually and an estimated 30,000 people are living in Ireland with disabilities as a result of a stroke. Croí’s World Stroke Day event aimed to highlight the risk factors associated with stroke and to provide helpful information for those living with, and recovering from, a stroke.

The Galway-based documentary, A Tiny Spark, produced by Swansong Films, examines the effect of stroke on people’s lives and looks at research into the blood clots that cause stroke. The documentary is about ground-breaking research being conducted by neuroscientist Dr. Karen Doyle at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway and was made under the ‘Science on Screen’ partnership with Galway Film Centre.

‘A Tiny Spark’ is available to watch on RTÉ Player until the end of November, 2019

This event was proudly supported by Ballinasloe-based company Surmodics, who are community partners to the Croí’s stroke programme.

Supported by:

Community Partner to Croí Stroke Programme