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Caring for Your Mental Health During COVID-19

coronavirusmental wellnessmental healthcovid-19teletherapytelepsychiatryHealth & Wellness • 6 min read • Mar 18, 2020 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Kat Smith

The COVID-19 outbreak has created an environment of uncertainty and instability in the United States and worldwide. It’s only natural to feel stress and anxiety related to getting sick, missing work, and failing to find essential items at local supermarkets. However, managing your stress and caring for your mental health are among the best actions you can currently take. Whether you’re healthy and practicing social distancing, sick and self-quarantined, or healthy and working as a first responder to this health crisis, coping with stress is important.

Understand the Risks and Know What You Can Do

First, know that stress is a natural response to a crisis, and everyone may be affected by stress a little differently. If you’re losing sleep, emotionally eating, feeling a persistent sense of worry, or having trouble concentrating, these are normal reactions. However, these are also signals that you should be focusing on your mental health. Be aware of changes in your sleep, eating habits, and mood. As a parent, look for changes in your family as well. Teens and children, as well as elderly family members, are very susceptible to stress during a health crisis.

One of the first steps you can take in managing your stress is gaining as much control as you can in the current situation. That means understanding the risks of COVID-19 and knowing what you can do to reduce the spread of the virus. Coronavirus can infect anyone, and it spreads through person-to-person contact as well as contact with contaminated surfaces. Therefore, handwashing and household cleaning are some of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your family. Elderly adults and immunocompromised individuals are most susceptible to severe symptoms and complications, such as pneumonia. So, they may need to take extra precautions, such as limiting all physical contact with family members and reducing the number of visitors they have at home.

In many areas, local governments are banning large gatherings, limiting all non-essential business, and encouraging individuals to stay at home. Follow these local guidelines. If you do feel sick, call your doctor or urgent care center prior to visiting in person. Alternatively, utilize telehealth services to consult a physician without risking further transmission of the virus.

Unplug from News and Social Media

Because the coronavirus outbreak is an unprecedented public health emergency in the United States, news stories related to the virus are breaking around the clock. In addition, it’s dominating social media feeds. This constant onslaught of info about the outbreak can be overwhelming, only worsening your stress. Remember to actively take breaks from the news and unplug from your devices throughout the day. Distract yourself by playing games, watching movies, or reading a book.

Stay Active and Engaged at Home

While entertainment is a healthy distraction from the pandemic, you should look for other ways to remain active and engaged. For many people right now, that means finding things to do at home. Regular exercise is helpful for relieving stress and staying healthy. Simple activities like squats, pushups, and sit-ups are easy to incorporate into your day and can be done from anywhere. You can also safely go out for a walk or run—just remember to keep your distance from friends and neighbors you might see outside along the way. Mental engagement is also important. For kids, there are tons of online resources available for learning outside of the classroom, and many are free or discounted currently. However, mental exercise is necessary for adults too. You might take a virtual museum tour or explore resources from your local library to keep your mind active as you spend more time at home.

If your profession demands that you are working during this time, you are likely feeling overwhelmed and overworked. Still, try to find some time for yourself to unwind and relax. Take a hot bath, meditate, take a walk, or do yoga to help relieve the stress. In addition, do what you can to get a full night’s sleep each day and eat healthy, balanced meals.

Know That Help Is Available

It’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed in this turbulent and uncertain time. Unfortunately, other stresses of daily life won’t take a break during the outbreak, so you may feel a sense of hopelessness or dread. But know that help is available. Many telehealth services include mental healthcare options, so you can see a therapist or psychiatrist from your own home. Thus, you don’t have to risk your health or the health of others to get the help you need. It’s also a good idea to keep in contact with loved ones over the phone or using video chat software. Feeling connected and maintaining a sense of social bonding is more important now than ever.

MeMD is here to help during the COVID-19 outbreak. Our mental healthcare services include Talk Therapy, Teen Therapy, and Psychiatry. We can connect you with a provider in as few as 24 hours, and you don’t even need to leave home to speak with your therapist or psychiatric physician. We also provide urgent care visits 24/7, so you can get the healthcare you need on demand.

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Kat Smith