As we continue to adjust to the ‘new normal’ of living through a pandemic, there can be a toll on our emotional well being. Public health decisions, such as wearing masks and social distancing, can cause people to feel isolated, depressed, and lonely. This can also lead to an increase in stress and anxiety. The unknowns about the future spread of the virus can also impact the same things. It can be difficult to cope with fear and anxiety, changing daily routines, and a general sense of uncertainty.
It can be ‘normal’ to have these feelings. Learning to cope with them in a healthy way can help make you and your loved ones come out stronger in the long run.
It is also important to remember, however, that people with pre-existing mental health conditions may be more vulnerable in an emergency, such as this pandemic. Mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia) affect a person’s thinking, mood or behavior in a way that influences their ability to relate to others and function each day. These conditions may be situational or chronic. People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. If you think you have new or worsening symptoms, you should call your healthcare provider.
For those who may not be familiar with or have a history of mental health issues, there are important questions to answer.
What are the impacts of stress in a situation like the one we are going through? What symptoms could people have?
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
- Sadness or loss of interest
- Changes in sleep.
- Appetite or eating pattern changes.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Anger or feeling irritated easily
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Worsening of mental health conditions.
- Increased use of substances, including alcohol.
- Thoughts of self-harm
What are Healthy Tips for coping during a pandemic?
- Stay informed, but take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. Be careful about trusting postings on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Improve self care.
- Take care of your body:
- Breathing Exercises
- Mindfulness and Meditation
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid excessive substance use
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some activities you enjoy.
- Set goals for each day.
- Focus on the facts. Sharing the facts about coronavirus (COVID19) and understanding the actual risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful.
- Connect with others online. Talk with people you have not been able to see in person through webcam or smartphone technologies.
- Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations online.
How you respond to the COVID-19 pandemic can depend on your background, your social support from family or friends, your financial situation, your health and emotional background, the community you live in, and many other factors.
Just as people respond differently to stress and trauma, what works for one person in terms of coping may not work for others.
Seek professional help when needed – If distress (symptoms as noted above) impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, contact a mental health provider. Our programs at Center For Wellness may be able to help – 732-655-4239.
If you or a loved one is struggling with thoughts of suicide with a plan to act on the same, contact local emergency services (911) or go to your nearest emergency room.