Coronavirus and Your Mental Health

Coronavirus and Your Mental Health

 
 

Information For Mental Health Care Providers

Fear and confusion about the coronavirus pandemic can be overwhelming and affect our mental health. High levels of stress can also weaken our immune systems, making us more susceptible to physical illnesses. So while it is normal, in fact adaptive, to have some level of anxiety about coronavirus, fear of the unknown, nonstop news coverage, misinformation, physical distancing/isolation, and video footage of empty shelves at grocery stores can increase anxiety to unhealthy levels.

Here are a few signs to look out for:

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Lack of interest in activities that usually provide some pleasure
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness or despair

 

People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment (remotely if necessary) and report new or worsening symptoms

More on remote treatment below.

 

Coping With Anxiety, Avoiding the Panic

  • Access reliable sources:  In today’s mass media environment it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide information and frequent updates on the COVID-19’s spread, severity, risk assessment, etc. 
  • Limit news and social media: While it is important to stay informed, too much media exposure can increase feelings of anxiety, despair, and helplessness. Limiting media consumption, especially when feeling overwhelmed, will have lasting benefits.
  • Stay connected (virtually if necessary): Maintaining contact with your support network (family, friends, mental health providers) can help reduce your feelings of anxiety, despair, and hopelessness. Whether or not you have a preexisting mental health condition, talking to a trusted mental health professional will help. If you or your provider are practicing physical distancing or are in quarantine, inquire about ways to continue therapy via telephone or online video technology. More info.
  • Exercise (at home if necessary): Research shows that exercise can be beneficial for your mental well-being. You don’t have to get to a gym, a walk or a run in your neighborhood or find an online workout class or video.
  • Acts of Altruism: Evidence shows that helping others and acts of charity can alleviate feelings of anxiety and melancholy. Even if you are quarantined or practicing social distancing there are ways to help others that could be beneficial to your mental health. 

 

Coping with Physical Distancing, Isolation, and Quarantine

To mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, experts are advising social distancing, isolation, and in some circumstances, quarantine. As humans, we are social beings and as mental health professionals we know that current social distancing recommendations as well as forced closings of movie theaters, gyms, restaurants and bars, libraries, malls, etc. will affect our mental health. 

A recent review of research, published in The Lancet, found that being quarantined is linked with mental health consequences such as:

  • Post-traumatic stress symptoms
  • Depression, insomnia, anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Boredom

 

If you are under quarantine or practicing physical distancing or self-isolation, here are some suggestions to help reduce mental health risks:

  • Stay Active: Even if it needs to be done alone or virtually, participating in activities that are important to you such as exercise or prayer, will ease feelings of anxiety.
  • Find distractions: It is important to find healthy distractions such as reading, playing cards, watching favorite movies, keeping up with hobbies, or better yet, start a project that you have been wanting to accomplish but have been putting off.
  • Keep in touch: Keeping one’s social network alive through phone or video is imperative. Social media can be a great tool to stay in touch, but be careful not to get bogged down with nonstop news and social commentary.
  • Be creative: Video footage from Italy showing neighbors getting together to sing from their balconies is a great example of how to creatively connect while under isolation.
  • Tele-health: Connecting with medical professionals, especially if concerned that you may have symptoms, is vital. This includes connecting with mental health providers. More and more doctors and mental health psychotherapists are providing consultations via phone or online video services.

 

More on our blog:

"Psychological Responses to Quarantine: What to expect and do"

"Irrationality in the Time of Coronavirus"

"The Need To Be Listened To"

"The Coronavirus Pandemic Can Evoke Memories from Our Past"

"Coronavirus Poses Challenges for those with Eating Disorders"

"The Two Kinds of Coronavirus Anxiety"

"Suddenly We Are All Grieving"

"Pandemic Fatigue Takes A Toll On Relationships with Self and Others"

"Six Ways To Make Teletherapy Work For You"

"Can We Find Meaning in the COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis?"

"Fighting About the Dishes?"

 

Articles for Parents:

"How to Answer Your Child's Questions About the Pandemic"

"Can I Be Both A Good Parent & A Good Professional During Covid-19"

"Resilience in the Age of COVID19: Parents Helping Children"

"How Parents Can Help Their Children During the Pandemic"

"Covid-19 Pandemic, Social Distancing, and Adolescence"

 

APsaA's Coping with Covid Video Series:

How to handle feelings of Loneliness?

Addressing job security anxiety

Resuming normal activities

How to address increased fights with partners

Grieving the loss of normal activities 

Talking to your children about coronavirus

Decreased sex drive?

Overcoming fear