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COVID-19 and Mental Health: How To Deal With Distress

COVID-19 and Mental Health: How To Deal With Distress

At times like this, many people are worried and stressed about the COVID-19 outbreak and a potential impact it can have on them and their family. You might also be feeling the same and constantly checking for news and updates, which can only worsen the feeling of anxiety and fear.

Therefore, it is important to embrace the emotions you feel, know how to cope with them, and prepare yourself to be able to react to unexpectancies. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) outline very helpful information with regards to distress and how to deal with them during an infectious disease outbreak.

Below are common signs of distress outlined by the SAMHSA:

  • Feeling of numbness or disbelief
  • Anxiety or fear:
    • Your own health status
    • The health status of others whom you may have exposed to the disease
    • The resentment that your friends and family may feel if they need to go into quarantine as a result of contact with you
    • Time taken off from work and the potential loss of income and job security
    • The challenges of securing things you need, such as groceries and personal care items
  • Concern about being able to effectively take care of children or others in your care
  • Uncertainty or frustration about how long this will continue and about the future 
  • Loneliness associated with feeling cut off from the world and from loved ones
  • Anger if you think you were exposed to the disease due to others’ negligence
  • Boredom and frustration because you may not be able to work or engage in regular day-to-day activities
  • Symptoms of depression:
    • Hopelessness, changes in appetite, or sleeping too little or too much

Some additional signs are as follows:

  • Changes in energy and activity levels
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares and upsetting thoughts and images
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Short-temper
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

It is recommended that if you are experiencing any of these feelings or behaviors for a prolonged period of time (several days in a row) that interfere with carrying out normal daily activities or normal responsibilities, seek professional help.

So, how can you cope with such distress?

Take care of your body: 

  • This can include eating healthy well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and usage of other drugs

Connect with others:

  • Share your concerns and feelings with your friends and family members
  • Maintain healthy relationships and build a strong support system
  • Talk “face to face” with friends and loved ones via Skype or FaceTime

Take breaks:

  • Take deep breaths and make time to unwind
  • Try to do activities that you enjoy 
  • Stretch, meditate, or pray
  • Pace yourself between stressful activities and do something fun after a hard task
  • Make sure to maintain positive thinking
  • Keeping a journal to jot down thoughts, the things you are grateful for, or things that are going well can also help you

Stay informed:

  • Feeling as if you have a lack of information can make you feel anxious and nervous; refer to news and updates from trusted sources such as, officials, local government, and authorities

Avoid too much exposure to news:

  • Too much exposure to news and updates about coronavirus repeatedly can have an impact on your mental health and emotions
  • Take breaks, try to do enjoyable activities, and return to normal life as much as possible while checking for updates between breaks

Seek help when needed:

  • If the feeling of distress continues for several days or weeks, contact a counselor or a doctor, or the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-985-5990


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