Our program featured Johnstown Rotarian Dr. Mary Berge, who gave us some tips on staying sane during Covid-19 and other stressful times. Mary is a practicing clinical psychologist and, as such, invited us to be on her virtual couch. Issues related to Covid, politics, civil unrest, and family can leave us feeling anxious and irritable.
She offered advice on how to achieve balance in our lives. She suggested limiting our daily intake of information. Don’t watch the news all day. Maybe tune in once in the morning and then again after dinner. Don’t watch the news after 8 PM because you need time to shed the negativity before bed if you want peaceful REM sleep. She advised us to establish daily routines which are less stressful than a chaotic lifestyle. Take breaks from work and engage different parts of the brain. Listen to music, read, or exercise. She stressed the importance of staying healthy. Don’t stray from your diet. Write down health-related goals and keep the goals where they are visible.
There is scientific chemistry to being happy and euphoric. Exercise increases levels of serotonin which helps stop depression. Oxytocin is known as the hug drug because levels are increased through intimacy. This leads to positive attitudes. Dopamine levels rise when you show gratitude to someone. Even a simple smile can produce dopamine and help alleviate depression. Mary uses a technique called bilateral sound therapy to help her relax. This therapy is known to reduce anxiety, anger, and depression. She reminded us that we all have choices to make. Setting goals helps focus our choices in positive ways. We have the ability to choose how we want to be when the pandemic is over.