On mild winter days, the beach beckons sunshine to banish the blahs. Photo: C. Leinbach

Ask a Mental Health Professional No. 11

By Earle Irwin

Question: I thought that putting 2020 behind us would be a tremendous relief. But I don’t feel much of anything, except BLAH-H-H. Winter drags on. I’m sick of being stuck inside these four walls. I eat too much and drink too much. I stay glued to the TV or my phone. Can you offer any hope?

Response: Yes, I can. Especially here on Ocracoke, it may seem like it’s been one thing (Hurricane Dorian) after another (COVID-19).  However, promising things are on the horizon.

Go outdoors
First of all, I recommend bundling up and getting outdoors. Take a socially distanced, masked stroll or a scud and notice what’s been happening around the village. How encouraging to see newly raised houses or witness the speed and the skill of Christian Aid Ministries teams as they construct replacement homes. Beyond the village, share in the thrills other residents have reported: sightings of dolphins, whales, and now the Snowy Owl at South Point.  

Sunlight is returning; days are getting longer. Thirty minutes of natural sunlight on a daily basis is enough to ease effects of winter doldrums. So even if your mobility is limited, sit on your porch or pull a chair into your yard and soak up some rays. You’ll have the chance to see what’s going on in your neighborhood and wave at your neighbors as they pass by.

COVID-19 restrictions remain in place indefinitely, yet the recent arrival of vaccines brings hope for an eventual end to this pandemic. Follow guidance offered here in the Observer for when and how to sign up for your vaccination.

Engage in activities
When we’re bored or our activity options are limited, reaching for food becomes an all-too-convenient pastime. What can you do instead? Pursuits that keep your hands busy can help. If your hands are occupied with knitting needles, crotchet hook, paintbrush, puzzle pieces, pen, tools, garden spade or fishing line, reaching for food is less appealing.

Island resources
Are you taking advantage of the resources that are available to you? If you feel that your alcohol intake is out-of-hand, consider accessing these local resources:

AA meets Fridays at 7 p.m. in the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department. (See Island Directory page on this website.) Masks and social distancing required. Also meets virtually on Zoom at aaocracoke.com, 7 p.m. Monday and Friday. Code to enter Zoom meeting is: 884 7474 7798 and password is 0822.

“Celebrate Recovery” is a Christ-centered support program, a safe place to find community and freedom from the issues that are controlling your life. Local meetings are held at Life Saving Church, 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

Check out Hyde County Health Department Substance Awareness for helpful phone contacts: http://hydehealth.com/substanceawareness/

Consider talking to a professional
And as you consider local resources, please consider me. The Ocracoke Interfaith Relief and Recovery Team, thanks to funding through the Outer Banks Community Foundation, retained me for two six-month terms to support island residents as they cope with Dorian aftermath, COVID-19 and other issues.

Just over two months remain of my second term. Please–before I depart at the end of March–call upon me. I’m a good listener, a support and an encourager.

Without further delay, please contact me via text, phone call or email at 252-385-2172 or eirwin@oirrt.org.

Earle Irwin, a retired clinical nurse specialist, is on Ocracoke through March to help islanders cope with Dorian aftermath and any other issues they may be dealing with
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