Busta’s Person of the Week: Dr. Kornegay shares tips on how to cope with the stress of COVID -19

Dr. Donna Chandler Kornegay, practicing mental health counselor 

Busta’s Person of the Week: Dr. Kornegay shares tips on how to cope with the stress of COVID -19
April 02
16:15 2020

By Busta Brown

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a tremendous amount of stress and confusion in our country and Americans need some stress relief. What’s adding to the chaos: there are so many questions that are still unanswered. And what was once taboo for many in the black community has now become the norm – therapy! Online therapy has increased greatly and with good reason. “If we can’t get all of the answers we need about COVID-19, people could die from the stress alone. The stress hormone can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system,” said Dr. Donna Chandler Kornegay. She’s a practicing mental health counselor and has been in the mental health industry for over 20 years. 

“All of my clients talk about worry and fear. They’re not only worried about contracting COVID-19, they’re worried about finances, elderly family members, losing their homes, how to deal with being quarantined for a long time, their children, family members with chronic illnesses. So they’re worried about a multitude of things that can impact them personally as well,” she said. 

I asked Dr. K how we can cope with this great amount of stress. “Remember, this too shall pass. Worrying about your finances at this point should be one of your least worries. Because the government has put into place some relief, the banks can’t bother you about late payments right now, the power and water companies are working with us, people are living in apartments where the evictions are postponed. The government is issuing a stimulus check, and I know it’s not much, but every little bit we didn’t or don’t have will help. So let’s focus on staying mentally and physically healthy. Trust God that this too will pass,” she said. 

Dr. K said she’s also dealing with clients who had to postpone weddings, family reunions, closing on a home, and missing church services. She gave some inspiring tips for that as well. “There’s so much that people are now not able to do. My mother church is doing a drive-thru service. They drive up to the church and the pastor preaches from the steps while the members are sitting in their cars listening to the service. That’s fantastic! Another way to cope is to take a break from watching any type of negative news stories about the pandemic, including social media, because that can be upsetting. Take care of your body and learn how to breathe properly. With the shut-in, there’s no excuse not to make time for exercise. It’s extremely vital to make sure you eat healthy and not buy a lot of junk food. Learn how to breathe properly and meditate; it helps relax your mind. And get plenty of sleep. Sleep is a great way to relief stress.” 

I spoke with this family physician about the stress of being home 24/7 with our children and if it is safe for them to go outside to give us a break. She suggested that we not allow our children to play with anyone other than those in our homes. I’m a parent of a 7-year-old boy who demands our attention hourly. So I asked Dr. K for a solution. 

“When you go for a run or walk, have your children join you on their bikes. Or have them walk or run with you. Walking or running releases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the mind and body, and that’ll relieve stress for you and your children. Also create a regular routine for learning activities, because it’s a lot easier to cope with children when there’s structure. Create a schedule for learning time and fun time. Structure is critical at a time like this because it breaks the monotony of children doing nothing, and also parents just cooking and cleaning every day.”

The veteran mental health counselor also shared that we need to make sure our children feel safe and remind them that it’s OK to feel upset and confused. We must teach them how to cope with their own stress in times like these. Not talking about it isn’t such a good thing, but talking about it is a great thing because they’ll depend on you a lot less. They’ll learn how to play and make better decisions independently, said Dr. Kornegay. 

I also asked how couples cope with the stress of being shut in 24/7 with their significant other and how do we give each other space? “Call or Facetime friends and relatives so you don’t lose that connection outside of your home. Check on the elderly in your area, because good deeds create warm and positive feelings, and that spirit will also spread throughout your household. Schedule a day and a time that’s solely dedicated to you. Whether that’s watching your favorite TV show, working out, reading a book that you didn’t have time for, taking a nice quite bubble bath, anything that’s solely dedicated to you.” She laughed out loud as she shared this: “And let people know that you’re not to be interrupted unless there’s blood or fire. If not, don’t interrupt me.” Dr. K said we all need our own free time, so expressing that to your family is not a bad thing. We all need those moments when we can calm down. She calls it “having your own brain.” 

“Tell them, ‘Let me have my own brain for a minute.’ If you can, do it for an hour. And asking for it is OK. If you do this every day, you’ll feel better about doing everything else during the course of the day.” 

She shared that it’s important to get those personal things done that you couldn’t do while working full-time. 

Lastly, we talked about how to cope when it’s essential for us to go out in public. “Pray before you leave the house; that will set the tone for how we interact with others. Be mindful and patient, because everyone is just as stressed as you are. Offer assistance where you see the need, especially if they’re older. But keep that six-feet social distance. This is the time to be kinder and more considerate to each other. If we don’t learn anything else, I hope we learn that.”

My phenomenal woman of the week is Dr. Donna Chandler Kornegay. To contact Dr. K, call her Google number at 984-235-0605. 

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