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This week Governor Brad Little ordered all Idahoans to stay home for 21 days. Residents are facing uncertainty as they prepare to stay home for three weeks. The Standard Journal spoke with Dr. Ron Larsen, a psychiatrist and medical director of Optum Idaho. The company is working with the Department of Health and Welfare for Medicaid recipients.

"This is a time of uncertainty and social distancing, so it's more important than ever that residents have a schedule, a plan to stay healthy," he said.

How does isolation affect us? 

Larsen said the trouble with isolation is that it magnifies how we feel. If someone is stressed or bothered by something and they're in isolation the brain can build on those feelings.

"It's very important to not sit or brood but to share those feelings and when you do you'll notice your body will feel better," he said.

How can I stay mentally healthy in the next 21 days?

  • Take breaks: Larsen said residents should take time to relax and distance themselves from too much information that could cause them added stress. Also, stretch, move around, take a deep breath.
  • Intentional Planning: Schedule when you sleep, when you eat, when you call loved ones.
  • Exercise: "It reduces stress and allows you to be clearer and feel better," he said. 
  • Staying connected: Larsen said the most important thing for residents is to stay connected with friends and family. People often say "I'll call later," Larsen said the time to call is now. He said that residents should call others and share their feelings, emotions or just the weather. "It helps us cope with what's going on inside," he said.

Who are the most vulnerable among us?

Larsen said that from a disease stand-point medical professionals worry the most about those who are older and have chronic medical problems.

"Those same people should be a little more careful to communicate," he said. 'If you know someone older with medical problems reach out to them. Your communication is likely helpful to those who are vulnerable."

How can I tell if someone in my home is struggling and how can I help?

Larsen said the first thing to look for is sleep. "We ask our family how are you doing? A second question can be how is your sleep?" He said the next thing to look for is exercising, are they getting out or taking walks?

"It's important to let people know how much you care about them," he said. "It's hard in our culture to tell others you love them but it's important."

In his own family, they've been Facetiming each other. Larsen said he's been making placards and showing them to his grandchildren through Facetime and helping them learn how to read.

"Show that you care about them," he said.

Larsen said that if someone is showing significant changes lasting longer than two weeks then they need to ask for help. It could be simple differences like a change in eating or sleeping.

"Seek help from a health care provider," he said. "If it lasts more than two weeks ask questions and ask for help."