With nearly one million cases and tens of thousands of deaths, COVID-19 has resulted in a pandemic leaving millions of people fearful, stressed and mentally strained. It’s understandable to feel like the world has turned upside down, from many individuals suddenly out of work and schools closing, to the stock market plummeting and hospitals overwhelmed by sick patients. Daily life has basically come to a screeching halt, all within a matter of weeks. It is no secret that the coronavirus is a significant burden to our physical health, and many individuals are doing all they can to protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus, but what about our mental health? To help get through this crisis, communities must come together to ensure that we are taking care of our mental health in the best way we know how.
Many mental health experts believe that this deadly pandemic can have drastic effects on mental health around the world. The anxiety of contracting the virus, as well as the increase in loneliness and isolation, can worsen and trigger mental health symptoms. Individuals who have been laid off from work are now uninsured, creating a massive barrier to accessing healthcare. Acknowledging, recognizing, and acting on mental distress in these uncertain times is key to lessening the impact.
Stay connected virtually
Our world has gone into isolation, as we are forced to practice social distancing and profoundly limit our physical interactions with others. But keeping our physical distance does not mean we cannot stay connected with others. Use this time to video chat with friends and family, and engage with loved ones and other on social media. Throughout this pandemic, stories of individuals have been celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and the arrival of new babies by hosting virtual videoconferences through Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype and other web conferencing platforms, showing that the human spirit is resilient. Our social lives do not have to come to a halt; we have to find different ways to socialize virtually.
Limit news consumption
It is nearly impossible to open your computer, turn on the television or log into social media without being bombarded with the latest COVID-19 news updates and political opinions. It can be overwhelmingly toxic and simultaneously addicting. It is essential to stay educated and informed during this pandemic but we also must limit our news consumption and choose our sources wisely. Pick two or three of your favorite news sources and try not to spend more than 30 minutes each day reading or listening to the news.
Take advantage of teletherapy
If you see a therapist or psychiatrist regularly for in-person visits, they may have contacted you regarding temporarily transitioning your therapy to remote sessions using a video teleconferencing service. Getting treatment this way is sometimes called “teletherapy” or “telehealth” and has been increasingly utilized over the past decade to deliver mental health care with reliable results in both adults and children. Many private insurances cover teletherapy, and Medicaid and Medicare have waived many restrictions on telehealth during the COVID-19 public emergency.
Move your body daily, even if you are confined to your living room. Many yoga and fitness studios are offering free virtual live classes for those who are stuck at home. If you can, try to go for a walk outside close to home.
Find healthy distractions
Take advantage of being at home by learning a new skill or hobby, organizing and cleaning the house, and crossing off all the to-do items on your list. Now is the perfect time to read a book, work on a puzzle, fix that leaky faucet, cook a new recipe, start a garden, learn a new language, and clean and organize your closet.
Practice being still
Although this can be a great time to be productive indoors, it is also a perfect time to take advantage of the stillness. Sleep in, watch movies, stretch, drink water and enjoy the silence. We live in such a busy world and are wired to continually be productive throughout the day, but taking time to be still can help settle your anxiety and calm your mind.
We must come together during this trying time to take care of our loved ones, our neighbors, our community, our planet and ourselves. This stressful time will pass. In the meantime, we must make our mental and emotional health a priority.
How can we help?
We offer mental health and addiction treatment services for you and your loved ones. Our goal is to provide individualized treatment in a safe and secure environment in hopes that you can live a happier, healthier, and prosperous future. If you find yourself struggling with your mental health or are practicing unsafe coping mechanisms, please call us at (844-803-0813). We are here for you 24/7.
Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a clinical content writer and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics for the vital world of mental health and addiction medicine. She is a family medicine physician and author, who also teaches and contributes to medicine board education. Her passion lies within educating the public on preventable diseases, including mental health disorders and the stigma associated with them. She is also an outdoor activist and spends most of her free time empowering other women to get outside into the backcountry.