Share The Health

COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

05-01-2020

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. During challenging times, like the recent COVID-19 outbreak, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or worried. While washing your hands and maintaining social distance from others is necessary to control the spread of infection, it’s also important to manage your mental health, too.

Perhaps you’re feeling increased anxiety, irritability, frustration, isolation, depression, anger, or hopelessness. This could be the result of any number of factors:

  • Financial uncertainty if you’ve been laid off or unemployed during the outbreak and are suddenly on a reduced or limited income
  • Fear and worry about your health or the health of friends and family
  • Concerns about factors out of your control—are your loved ones taking COVID-19 guidelines seriously? Will medical care or community services be disrupted?
  • Feeling alone and isolated
  • Guilt if others are helping with activities of daily living
  • Changes in sleep or eating habits
  • Worsening health problems or increased symptoms of existing mental health conditions

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these behavior changes, you could be struggling with mental health issues or stress:

  • Excessive crying, irritability, acting out, worry, or sadness
  • Returning to behaviors you’ve outgrown, especially true for children (bedwetting accidents for example)
  • Unhealthy eating or sleep habits
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Difficulty paying attention or concentrating
  • Avoiding activities once enjoyed
  • Unexplained headaches or body pains
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

How to Cope with COVID-19-Related Stress and Mental Health Problems

Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with worsening mental health during these troubling times. Here are a few ways to increase your resilience and cope with the negative impact of COVID-19.

  • Take breaks from the news when you feel overwhelmed, worried, or depressed. Be aware of your kids’ news consumption too—children may misinterpret what they hear and become frightened if they’re exposed to something they don’t understand.
  • Take care of and listen to your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Exercise regularly, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep.
  • Make time for yourself to unwind. Do activities you enjoy—like reading or dancing.
  • Create and stick to a schedule. If you’re stuck at home, developing a daily routine can help you and your family feel in control, organized, and less chaotic.
  • Call a healthcare provider if your stress or that of a loved one becomes too much to handle. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about symptoms you and or a loved one may be experiencing.
  • If you have pre-existing mental health conditions, continue your treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.
  • Stay connected and maintain your social networks. Take time to talk with your loved ones. Virtual communication by telephone or video chat can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely and isolated. Check in with others often.
  • If you’re a parent and your child or teen is feeling frightened, reassure them they are safe and it’s okay to feel upset. Share how you’re dealing with stress and encourage them to learn how to cope, too.
  • Understand the risk of COVID-19 by staying up to date with what is happening and look to only credible sources for information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are great sources for reliable information related to COVID-19.
  • If you’re unable to work during this time or struggling to keep up while working remotely, work with your employer to reduce stressors.
  • Be empathetic to others experiencing changes in health and wellness during the outbreak. Offer support, compassion, and kindness.
  • Assist others in their time of need, if you are able. This can benefit both the person receiving support and you, the helper. Check on your neighbors, especially the elderly, who may need extra assistance. Or consider honoring caregivers and healthcare workers on the front lines.
  • Look for positive ways to express feelings of stress, fear, or sadness. This could include creative activities like drawing or writing.
  • Keep things in perspective. While you and your loved ones are in isolation, health workers and experts are working around the clock to treat those affected and prevent the spread to others. Start a daily gratitude journal that helps you to focus on the positive moments of each day.
  • Find a mental health community of people who understand and can provide resources to help you. This may include connecting to a spiritual or religious community.

Additional Resources for Mental Health Support

Looking for more information on mental health and coping with the effects of COVID-19? Visit any of these trusted resources.

For additional information on COVID-19 and updates at Frederick Health, please visit FrederickHealth.org/Covid19.