April 10, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

(Courtesy of SMGH) “Is it a coincidence that Stress Awareness Month is the same month as we get ready for Pesach?” asked George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic. “Thirty days between Purim and Pesach where we go through major changes as we make our homes chametz-free—get out the Pesach-cleaning checklist1, get the kids and spouse into the Pesach groove, get the carpet cleaner out, the steamer or boiling water for the kitchen, cover the counter, stove and refrigerator shelves, shop for clothing for the family, gradually get your dog off chametz-based dog food, detail/clean the cars, plan the Pesach meals, shop for Pesach food, prepare for the Pesach Seders and meals, all while in your normal household and family role—aka supermom!”

The CDC provides some basic ideas to help you cope with stress. Let’s see if they can help us getting ready for Pesach.

a. CDC: Take care of yourself—eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, give yourself a break if you feel stressed. REALITY: Exercise is cleaning for Pesach, sleep may come when Pesach is over, a break if I feel stressed would mean a continuous break through Pesach!

b. CDC: Discuss your problems with a parent, friend or another trusted source. REALITY: Right. All my friends and family are going through the same Pesach cleaning/preparing process! I may be able to talk to them this summer!

c. CDC: Avoid drugs and alcohol. REALITY: If I do that, how do I cope with the day?

The CDC then suggests that we recognize when we need more help—“Know when to talk to a psychologist, social worker or counselor if things continue.” Will they help us get ready for Pesach?

“This year and the two prior years have been very stressful for all of us,” said Matyjewicz. “The pandemic and resulting quarantine have taken their toll on us. Seders the past two years have been a challenge, as we have been cut off from our families. This year we hope to enjoy a Seder with our families, which also means extra work getting ready.”

Then we add another dimension to Pesach—the extremely high cost of food! Inflation has reached a 40-year high2, and the cost to bring food to the stores has sky-rocketed due to the price of fuel—which has increased by 44% in one year.3 Add to that the food shortages, especially poultry, which goes beyond kosher. Poultry suppliers cited extreme weather in many farm areas and labor shortages that have hit America in general. The pandemic had a devastating effect on the labor force.4 And, of course, we then have the easy stuff – mechiras chametz (sale of chametz).

Still, we need to have hakarat hatov and thank Hashem for everything. And think of those poor people in your own kehila and elsewhere, like Ukraine, who are not as fortunate as you. Their issues will not be the stress of preparing for Pesach, but the stress of wondering where they will find food or clothing or a place to live this Pesach. Give generously this year for maos chitim to help cater for the holiday expenses of these poor people. Perhaps invite those local to your Seder and share the happiness.

Coping With Stress

Yes, we are grateful for what we have. However, being cooped up for two-plus years and now dealing with current issues will take a toll on many of us. What is stress? We all experience stress—yet we may experience it in very different ways. Because of this, there is no single definition for stress, but the American Institute of Stress5 states the most common explanation is a “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.”

How will we cope with stress? Long-term stress can prove to be more than just a mental issue. From headaches to stomach disorders to depression—even very serious issues like stroke and heart disease can come as a result of stress.

If stress is really taking a toll on you, it may be time to talk to a psychologist, social worker or counselor. Just as a military veteran may be affected with PTSD6 so too may you be suffering, as you work through this battle of preparation! Combined with the quarantine, and you may need some help.

“At St. Mary’s General Hospital, we recognize the considerable impact this pandemic has had on our community. We witness the incredible resilience of individuals and families every day, but also understand that there may be times when additional professional support is needed,” said Kathleen Fisher, LSW, LPC, ACS, executive director, BHS. “Our behavioral health department provides a wide range of programs and facilities enabling adults, children and adolescents to function productively and independently. Our primary goal is to help individuals reach and maintain their highest level of function psychologically, socially, vocationally and economically.

One of our outpatient services, called the POWER7 program (Program for Outpatient Wellness, Enrichment and Recovery) works with adults experiencing acute emotional distress who are at risk of psychiatric hospitalization. A multidisciplinary team provides individualized treatment, rapid response and seamless access, and removes barriers for people who need help. Services include comprehensive assessment; individual, family and group therapy; case management, referral and linkage; psychiatric evaluation; and medication monitoring.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call 973-470-3514.

St. Mary’s General Hospital—nationally recognized, locally preferred among the top hospitals in America for health, quality and patient safety! A center of excellence for maternal-child, the hospital has over 550 physicians and 1,200 employees, with every staff member committed to providing respectful, personalized, high-quality care—to satisfy patients’ needs and exceed their expectations. St. Mary’s General is a proud member of Prime Healthcare, which has more Patient Safety Excellence Award recipients for five consecutive years (2016-2020) than any other health system in the country including a “Top 15 Healthcare System” by Truven Health Analytics. To learn more about St. Mary’s General Hospital, visit https://www.smh-nj.com/ or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StMarysGeneral.

For more information, please contact George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison at [email protected].

1 Or use the one at Kosher.com https://www.kosher.com/lifestyle/the-passover-cleaning-checklist-you-need-this-year-1126

2 https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/current-inflation-rates/

3 AAA GAS Prices https://gasprices.aaa.com/?state=NJ 44% in NJ; 46% in Bergen-Passaic Counties

4 https://www.koshertoday.com/concerns-for-a-poultry-shortage-mount-for-passover

5 https://www.stress.org/

6 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

7 Program for Outpatient Wellness, Enrichment and Recovery (POWER) is an official State of NJ Intensive Outpatient Treatment and Support Service (IOTSS).

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