Some find it difficult watching the COVID-19 virus spread across the world. Many are feeling vulnerable and stressed, wondering how COVID-19 will impact Alaska. With headlines focused on grocery store shelves running low on supplies, the continued spread of the virus, and the increased need for safety precautions like hand washing and disinfecting surfaces we touch, it can be hard to avoid feelings of fear. The good news is, there are many things that can be done to keep a calm mind during times of distress. Recognizing and managing anxiety is doable and there are many things anyone can try. First, it is important to understand if you are feeling anxious, worried, helpless, or edgy, you are not alone. These are common stress reactions.

What steps can be taken to reduce stress about COVID-19? It is healthy to take breaks from the news and social media about the pandemic. Instead, work on an art project, read a book, take a walk, or watch your favorite movie. Stay grounded. Take time to de-stress by doing a breathing exercise. An easy one to try: breath in for a count of four, pause and hold the breath for a second, and then breathe slowly out of your mouth for a count of seven. Set a timer for three minutes and maintain this breathing pattern the entire time.

Stay centered. Sit in a comfortable chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Focus on how your body feels as it rests in the chair, starting at the neck and shoulders and then shifting awareness down the body, ending with how the feet feel resting against the floor. There are various apps that can help with stress management. A couple options to consider include Calm or Headspace. Another helpful activity during these difficult times is to learn about mindfulness. There are many books and online resources that provide education on mindfulness, one good online resource is

Finally, make sure to support the health and wellness of everyone by cooking a healthy meal, eating together, and talking with family.

COVID-19 has common signs of infection including respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. As we do our best in our self-quarantine, catching COVID-19 is still a possibility. Below is useful information on what to do if you or a loved one catch COVID-19.

Stock up: Absurd amounts of toilet paper don’t need to be at the top of your shopping list. Include items like facial tissue, Acetaminophen, and cough medicine. This is also a good time to get a refill of any prescriptions you may need. Call the pharmacy to request mail delivery. A humidifier can be a useful resource for your isolation.

Separate Yourself: If someone in your household is sick they should stay in a specific room and away from other people in the home as much as possible. The infected individual should use a separate bathroom, if available, otherwise disinfect the bathroom after each use. This also means pets should not be handled during this time. If the infected household members are unable to care for themselves such as a child or elderly, limit to only one caregiver in the household. If someone is sick and must travel or come in contact with others, it is important for them to wear a face mask to limit the spread of illness.

Get comfortable: Be sure to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. Get fresh air by cracking the window if the weather is permitting or have an air conditioner nearby to keep cool. Avoid sharing personal items with other people in the household, like dishes, towels, and bedding. Monitor any symptoms by keeping a log of any changes and check your temperature at least twice a day.

Finally, remember to wash your hands often, disinfect high-touch surfaces daily. Binge-watch your favorite television shows, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated during this difficult time. Together we can flatten the curve and limit the exposure rate.

What is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19? The answer, social distancing and good hygiene practices. Social distancing is different than being quarantined or isolated and can be key in slowing down the spread of contagious diseases. It is important for us to come together as a community and everyone start to practice social distancing as much as possible, not just those who are considered higher risk for serious illness or individuals who are seriously ill.

Social distancing means:

  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Limit travel
  • Maintain a distance from others of six feet whenever possible
  • Avoid shaking hands and hugging
  • Stay home if you feel sick

Social distancing can go a long way in flattening the curve of COVID-19. Flattening the curve is when the number of cases that could result in a spike of COVID-19 cases in a short period of time is reduced. As a result, the curve is flattened, and the number of cases happen over a longer timeline which helps prevent hospital resources and employees from being overwhelmed and overcapacity. Without people taking protective measures like social distancing a spike in new cases could occur. The result of the spike in cases could have repercussions. Intensive care units could run out of beds resulting in not everyone who is sick being treated. This information can be hard to hear but it reinforces the importance of starting to practice social distancing.

Even though social distancing may affect normal day-to-day life, there are still plenty of activities to keep busy. There are a variety of activities that can be done at home; get an early start on spring cleaning, play board games, visit a virtual museum, do home projects, video chat with loved ones, meditate, find and try new recipes, make some arts and crafts, catch up on sleep, and read. Currently, social distancing doesn’t mean individuals can’t go outside, with the temperatures warming up across Alaska consider going out and getting some fresh air. Take a walk, hike, or a run, but remember to still maintain a distance of six feet from people whenever possible.

Social distancing alone will not make COVID-19 go away, but it may lessen impact and spread of the virus. By coming together as a community and social distancing ourselves, we will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19

During this stressful time, a healthy activity to release stress may include connecting with others over the phone.

Alaska Native and American Indian people are strong and resilient people. Many in the Alaska Native and American Indian community have shared their knowledge of survival and the importance of working together to get through life’s hardships. Less than two years ago, Alaskans demonstrated strength as the whole community responded to a 7.1 earthquake in Southcentral Alaska. When faced with adversity, Alaska pulls together as a community; by working together we will make it through this current challenge.

Southcentral Foundation is committed to working with the Native Community to achieve wellness through health and related services. In response to the concerns related to the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19, SCF is being vigilant and is preparing as far ahead as possible. SCF will continue to support the community following the recommendations provided by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on COVID-19.

In response to COVID-19, the health and wellness of the community is everyone’s responsibility. Individual action to support community wellness means social distancing as much as possible, washing hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds, and providing emotional support for each other. Check-in on loved ones, reach out to friends, and when possible provide support to those who continue to work and support the needs of the community. This is a stressful and uncertain time for everyone. Now, more than ever, it is important to pull together and be compassionate. Fortunately, there are many options that are available to stay connected while practicing social distancing. To stay connected with family and friends considering reaching out via text, phone, video chat, social media, or write a letter and mail it.

The practice of social distancing and self-isolation provides an opportunity to slow down, create art, and take time to practice the hobby that there hasn’t been enough time for. Perhaps read a book, learn phrases in an Alaska Native language, bead, create Alaska Native or American Indian art, craft, share knowledge with family and friends (with proper social distancing), or journal to remember life during a pandemic and how life was before and after — the generations ahead may want to learn how they too can be strong and resilient, or cook a traditional dish.

In response to social isolation recommendations and the significant impact on services, many individuals and organizations have made changes to continue to support the community. In addition to the changes, many are offering services for free or at reduced prices, examples include cooking classes, yoga, access to webinars, and online courses.

As a community it is important to continue to support the most vulnerable and ensure that help is provided where it is needed. With everyone in the community doing their part to help prevent the spread of germs while also supporting each other’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health we will continue to be strong and resilient.

Information is available here:

Healthy ways of coping with stress is also available on the CDC website here:

Take a break from the social media and news stories related to COVID-19 and exercise.

The outbreak of COVID-19 can be surreal and stressful for people, especially those who have been identified as at-risk. It’s important to recognize those emotions if you are experiencing them and learn to cope with them in productive ways. Since each person has their own unique backgrounds and challenges, everyone reacts to the stress of this situation differently. Those who may react more strongly to the COVID-19 pandemic include: Elders, individuals with chronic diseases, individuals with behavioral health conditions, first responders, and medical personnel. Left unchecked, these strong emotions can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as excessive fear and worry, changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating patterns, difficulty sleeping, and worsening chronic health problems.

Parents should also be aware of irregular patterns in their child’s behavior. In young children, excessive crying, anger or irritation could be signs of emotional distress. In older children and teens, unexplained headaches or body pains, difficulty concentrating, and avoidance of once enjoyable activities are important things to watch for.

To cope with these feelings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking a break from the social media and news stories related to COVID-19. Individuals coping with major stress related to COVID-19 should also focus on taking care of their bodies by eating well, staying active, and getting enough sleep. Other beneficial activities are participating in enjoyable activities and staying connected with friends and relatives.

According to the World Health Organization, assisting others in their time of need can benefit the person receiving support as well as the helper. Helping others to work through negative emotions in a productive way can be just as important as keeping one’s own emotions in check. Checking in with friends, family, and neighbors via phone can be therapeutic and create a sense of solidarity and community, which is extremely important during a crisis. Children should be reassured of their safety and given a safe space for their questions to be answered.

According to the CDC, another great way to be emotionally supportive is to share credible and accurate information about COVID-19 with others. This allows them to combat their fears with helpful information so they can feel more confident moving forward and through this challenge.

During this worldwide pandemic, pay attention to information and advisories released by federal health organizations to receive up-to-date and reliable information.

t’s a special time of year — where thousands of Alaskans gather to meet up with friends, learn about issues affecting their families, and hear from those making a positive impact in the Alaska Native Community.

Ask your friends and family if they are okay. Connection is the solution. Relating to those who are suicidal and helping them through the challenges they are facing is crucial to supporting loved ones through crisis. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, speak out and connect with those around you; don’t carry the weight alone. Mental health is part of overall wellness.

Southcentral Foundation’s Native Men’s Wellness Program is dedicated to improving the health of Alaska Native and American Indian men through events and training that address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of their lives.

Part of Southcentral Foundation’s role as a two-time Baldrige Award winning organization is to share its best practices with other companies. SCF’s award winning Administrative Support Training Program was designed over 15 years ago to provide administrative support employees skills that go beyond standard practices and cultivate mental models that help them become successful future leaders.

Southcentral Foundation’s Board of Directors Chairman James Segura received the National Indian Health Board Public Health Innovation Award this spring. The award honors individuals, Tribes, organizations, and programs that have enriched and improved Alaska Native and American Indian public health.