By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 25, 2020 at 9:01 AM

The coronavirus pandemic has changed our everyday life, but it doesn't need to change who we are. So, in addition to our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus, OnMilwaukee will continue to report on cool, fun, inspiring and strange stories from our city and beyond. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay informed and stay joyful. We're all in this together. #InThisTogetherMKE

Lately, my first thought upon awakening has been, "I wish I could just go back to sleep."

Between thoughts of a retirement and college savings accounts I refuse to even look at, a long-planned and now canceled spring break vacation, to, of course, the thoughts of so many getting sick and even dying, being in a dreamworld frankly seems like a much better option.

But, we’ve been here before and we’ve come out of it. Not without scars and deep, painful losses. And this time will likely be the same. Times may get tough and we may feel massive pain, but, in the end, will will endure. You have to believe this, just as I have to ... and so, every day, I get up with hope for what the new day will bring.

In this time when coming together actually means keeping ourselves apart for a while, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and not just for physical symptoms of COVID-19, but for emotional support, too.

There are resources available and one good place to start is at Impact 2-1-1, located in Milwaukee, and totally free.

You can visit the website to chat online with someone who can help you find the help you need, be it medical, emotional or other. You can also dial 2-1-1, or text your zip code to 898211 to start a conversation with a representative.

"We’re working with local public health authorities and emergency management to be able to answer questions people have about COVID-19," says Impact’s Senior Account Manager Bob Waite.

"While we can’t give medical advice, we can screen callers for symptoms and connect them with the help they need."

Impact also has a list of resources available on its website, and you can expect it will be updated.

"It’s really an evolving situation," says Waite, "and we are working to make sure we have adequate resources so that we can assist callers."

Milwaukee County also operates a 24-hour crisis line at (414) 257-7222.

The Centers for Disease Control website has resources on its Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19 page, too.

Among the things it suggests:

  • Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly.
  • Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.
  • Connect with others. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.
  • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking.

Parents should watch for these symptoms of anxiety and stress in their children:

  • Excessive crying and irritation.
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (e.g., toileting accidents or bedwetting).
  • Excessive worry or sadness.
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits.
  • Irritability and "acting out" behaviors.
  • Poor school performance or avoiding school.
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration.
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past.
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain.
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

Here are some ways they can support their children:

  • Take time to talk with your child about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child can understand.
  • Reassure your child that they are safe. Let them know if is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
  • Limit your child’s exposure to media coverage of the event. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
  • Help your child to have a sense of structure. Once it is safe to return to school or child care, help them return to their regular activity.
  • Be a role model; take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members and rely on your social support system.

If you're feeling panicky, here's some good advice to consider, too:

Please don’t suffer alone. We’re all in this together.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.