COVID-19 and Mental Health
During this uncertain time, it is hard to keep your mind from worrying and stressing over every detail. Did I wash my hands enough? Do I have my mask? Am I social distancing? All these questions are becoming the new norm as we transition through February 2021, marking one whole year of the COVID-19 outbreak. Working from home, becoming unemployed, children doing virtual school, not being able to see friends or family members and overall fear of contracting the virus, all impacting our mental health. Learning about what you can do to support your mental health, for yourself and families, during difficult times is the key to happiness.
The Coronavirus pandemic is causing a lot of stressful challenges for many of us. For adults, working from home can soon become overwhelming. Online school can also cause distress and high emotions for children and young adults. Following social distancing rules can also make us feel alone, stressed and cause anxiety. There are many ways to cope with stress in a healthy way and help you realize you are not alone.
How to cope with stress:
- Limit watching, reading, or listening to the news and disconnect from your screen time for a while.
- Exercise daily and get enough sleep.
- Be mindful of your body. (Meditating, breathing exercises, yoga.)
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Discuss with others how you are feeling. (Friends, family, or therapists.)
- Take time for YOU. Unwind and do relaxing things you enjoy. (Read a book, take a bath, go for a walk.)
How to help others cope:
- Online video chats can help you stay connected.
- Phone calls, emails, texts, can let someone know you care.
- Offer advice and listen to their concerns.
Coping with Loss
Along with stress, COVID-19 is also bringing large amounts of grief and loss. In the United States, 463,445 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. That is 463,445 families grieving the loss of a loved one. Coping with the grief of losing family members and friends is not easy and takes a large toll on our mental health. There is no handbook on the grieving process but recognizing that there is life after loss can make this difficult time a little easier.
- Do not be hard on yourself. Be kind and listen to your body and mind.
- Let yourself feel whatever you are feeling. (Do not hold it in)
- Express your emotions. (Talk to someone, go for a walk, do an activity)
- Be patient with yourself. Grief is a journey, it takes time.
“We believe grief is a form of love and it needs to find a place in your life after you lose someone close.”Psychiatrist Dr. M. Katherine Shear at Columbia University
Ways to Support Mental Health
Managing stress and coping with grief are two important factors to control during the pandemic. Along with stress and grief there is an overwhelming number of emotions that also occur. Adapting to this new way of life can be challenging for all of us, especially parents, older adults and those who already have a mental illness.
Advice for parents:
- Make sure to stay involved during children’s in-home learning. Set time aside for schoolwork and activities.
- Keep them informed of COVID-19 and safety rules. Use easy to understand language if they are younger.
- Keep the same routines from before the pandemic. If these are not possible, form new routines and stick to them.
- Encourage video chats with classmates, friends, and family members to stay connected.
- Limit screen time. (Do activities together that do not require a screen)
- Spend extra time together and give extra attention.
Advice for older adults:
- Stay informed on current Coronavirus information.
- Stay home and stay safe. (Especially if you have a preexisting medical condition)
- Keep in touch with family and friends through phone calls, emails, and video chats.
- Keep a healthy diet.
- Participate in physical activity daily.
- Use resources to limit time out in the public. (Grocery delivery services, restaurant delivery).
- Make sure to have extra supplies of medications.
- If you must go out in public, wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart.
- Reach out to family, friends, or neighbors for help.
Advice to help all of us look after our mental health:
- Make a routine. (Go to bed and wake up at the same time, eat meals at the same time, consistent exercise)
- Stay connected by social contact. (Virtually through video chats, FaceTime, Skype).
- Stay informed but make sure to not overdo it. (Limit television and news to a few times daily)
- Minimize screen time daily.
- Support others by helping them through this time.
- Support healthcare workers. Make sure to thank them online and in your own communities.
What do I do if I already have a mental health condition prior to the pandemic?
Living with a mental illness through a pandemic can worsen symptoms and make it more difficult to work through your mental illness. If you are struggling, just know you are not alone. There are healthy ways to cope with a mental condition during the pandemic. There are various resources and programs that can assist you during this time.
Advice and resources for those with a mental health condition:
- Make sure to keep enough medications on hand. (Ask your doctor for extra supply, refill them early)
- Continue routines. (If old routines are interrupted, create new ones to fill the gap)
- Get involved in virtual meetings for clubs, friends, and family members.
- Stay connected with psychiatrists and therapists. (Virtual video therapy sessions or phone calls)
- Use online support groups. (Crisis Text Line, text MHA to 741741)
- Get in touch with a warmline. (A support tool run by others suffering with mental illness).
“COVID-19 can result in psychological issues due to both pandemic stress and the physical effects of the disease,”Brittany LeMonda, PhD, a senior neuropsychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Anxiety, depression, and panic disorders are on the rise due to COVID-19. Even those recovering from COVID-19 are likely to develop some mental health condition. Those who have gotten COVID-19 are twice as likely to develop a mood or anxiety disorder sometime after their recovery.
Staying connected and supportive of others will help us get through the pandemic. Supporting healthcare workers, local businesses and staying safe are important rules to follow during this stressful time. We are all in this together.