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Collective Care

The AllHealth Network's Colorado Spirit Program helps people grow together with free behavioral health resources in the pandemic

"If you allow yourself to expect guidance, guidance will show up." - Richard Bartlett

In the middle of uncharted territory, a guide is preferred. The same is true with new, emotional grounds. There wasn't exactly a guidebook for the Coronavirus pandemic but, in their own way, The Colorado Spirit Program has created one.

The Colorado Spirit Program began in July of 2020 as a free resource for people of all ages to get psychological support during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s right— free. They fully believe in the importance of preventative care and, unlike traditional outpatient services, the team at Colorado Spirit is fully committed to specifically addressing the unique issues brought about by the pandemic.

The Colorado Spirit Program offers individual support, group support, public education, connection to resources, and more. According to Amber Berenz, the Program Manager for the Colorado Spirit Program, sometimes a bit of contact is all it takes to help someone rise above stressful circumstances.

“A little connection can help us tap into our natural resiliency,” says Amber.

Amber has found that there are five basic things that help people during times of stress: safety, hope, connection to resources and social supports, calming practices, and ways to feel a sense of effectiveness and control for ourselves and communities. 

Colorado Spirit is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), over sought by the Colorado  Department of Public Health and Environment, and ran on the local level by the AllHealth Network. FEMA usually intervenes in the instance of something like an earthquake or hurricane but, in this case, the pandemic is categorized as a national disaster as well. 

"In the midst of a national disaster, you have to allow yourself the space to feel the freedom to say “it’s okay to not be okay,”” Cynthia Grant, the Chief Operations Officer and Chief Clinical Officer at AllHealth, says.

The team at Colorado Spirit has helped people navigate several of the effects, including substance abuse, the new frontier of online learning, interrupted social connections, and high stress levels. Amber notes that many of our healthy coping mechanisms became less accessible, which increases the risk of engaging in potentially harmful behaviors.

According to Cynthia, pandemic fatigue is a big mental health issue. People are getting tired of the pandemic, missing authentic connections, and losing hope as the situation continues to drag. However, there is a silver lining that 2/3 of people experience: Post-Traumatic Growth. PTG can take many different shapes: changing to a career that makes you happier. Getting out of a relationship that’s not the best. Exercising and eating cleaner because health has become a priority. Being kinder to yourself. 

“So yeah, you’re tired, and maybe that means you’re going to sit in your jammies and read a book the whole weekend— and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Cynthia says. “When I was physically going to work, running errands, and had places to be, maybe I’d feel guilt for reading all day. But now, I don’t.”

Despite the comfiness that a pajama-clad Saturday might convey, Cynthia and Amber are adamant that self-care alone won’t cut it. They prefer the term ‘collective care’ and share the belief that healing can’t happen in a vacuum. Resources and proper support are critical. And, people don’t have to wait until they start feeling depressed or stressed to get support.

“I think that there’s a large portion of the population that thinks in order to get mental health treatment, you have to be really really sick,” Cynthia says. “However, a lot of what we do as an organization is preventative.”

Here are some of The Colorado Spirit Program’s best tips for preventative care in 2021:

  • Balanced eating
  • Balanced sleeping
  • Moving around 
  • Mindfulness of substance use 
  • Mindfulness of media consumption 
  • Connections with people 
  • Calming and grounding exercises like deep breathing 

Cynthia cited PsychologyToday.com; a website where you can locate listed therapists in your area, figure out what benefits you qualify for, and take self-tests in everything from depression to emotional eating. Colorado Spirit’s website is a great resource in and of itself. In our current digital age, there’s no shortage of content. However, it’s sometimes difficult to discern what’s true— especially when it comes to health during a pandemic. AllHealth’s experts curated the best research, articles, and tips to save people the time and headache of sifting through massive amounts of information. Start learning or schedule a free counseling session today: https://www.allhealthnetwork.org/colorado-spirit/ 

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