Get outdoors, create routines and ask for help to maintain mental health while practicing social distancing |

Get outdoors, create routines and ask for help to maintain mental health while practicing social distancing

Mental health leaders encourage Summit County residents to safely enjoy the outdoors amid a countywide shutdown.
Taylor Sienkiewicz /

DILLON — Mental health is just as top of mind as physical health as Summit County residents are asked to remain in their homes and practice social distancing amid a countywide shutdown.

Frisco Mind Springs Health program director Meredith Smith recommends engaging in indoor or outdoor activities that you find enjoyable or will keep you busy — while maintaining social distance. Even stepping outside for a few minutes of sunshine can be helpful, she said.

Building Hope Summit County Executive Director Jennifer McAtamney echoed this sentiment.

“Please make sure that you’re getting outside,” McAtamney said. “We are fortunate here in Summit County that walking, hiking, cross-country skiing is not closed for business.”

In addition to outdoor activities, McAtamney recommended that people rediscover old projects and hobbies. She shared that in her household, everyone has chosen a “quarantine project,” which includes things like finishing a knitting project and restoring a guitar. She said that journaling could be very helpful for people to get out their thoughts and feelings.

Smith said that structure and routines will be important for everyone in self-quarantine but especially those with preexisting mental health conditions.

“Anything you can do to provide structure, rituals, routines at home where you take some technology breaks I think is important,” Smith said.

Smith recommended connecting with friends and family through apps like FaceTime or even social games online. 

Local Mental Health Resources

“We’re fortunate enough to have technology at our fingertips so one of the ways to increase resiliency is to increase social support,” Smith said. “Anything that you can engage in other than just talking about the COVID-19 issue is important.”

McAtamney said people should take advantage of available resources and reach out if they are in need. In this uncertain time, it is normal to be anxious, she said. 

Building Hope posted an open letter listing resources that people can use during the shutdown, which includes a database of Summit and Eagle county providers who offer telehealth therapy, virtual community connectedness events and scholarships to provide financial support for people who are in need of mental health services. Community connectedness events for sound healing therapy, yoga and soon art will be available via Building Hope’s Facebook page. Scholarship appointments are being taken virtually, and can be set up by calling 970-389-1151.

Mind Springs Health is expanding its virtual health program to address client’s mental health needs.

Smith explained that the front desk staff will set up an influx of clients with virtual appointments via Zoom or telephone. The Zoom app, which Mind Springs has a specific license for in order to conduct therapy and other mental health services virtually, will be used for one-on-one meetings, support group meetings and for medication consultation. 

Smith said the biggest concern with virtual meetings is privacy, so staff members are required to use private locations during these virtual meetings. Clients with previously scheduled appointments also are being contacted to switch to virtual meetings. Telephone meetings will be set up for those who cannot use Zoom. 

More on COVID-19

The latest Summit County news, how to protect yourself and local resources.

Anyone seeking virtually conducted mental health services can call the Frisco Mind Springs Health office at 970-668-3478.

For individuals struggling with mental health during this time, Smith also recommended having a support person such as a family member or friend that you check in with every day. 

“During stressful times, people have a tendency to focus inward and not on community, and this is a time where it’s really important to be sharing and caring,” McAtamney said.

As for frustrations about the current circumstances, Smith stressed that it’s important that everyone try to show compassion for one another and each other’s needs. 

“Understand everyone’s doing the best they can,” Smith said. “There’s going to need to be flexibility.”

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