Natalie David, LCSW
Maintaining Emotional Health through the COVID-19 Pandemic
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
The global pandemic has changed life as we know it. The daily news is grim. People are facing unprecedented job and financial losses. Most are also facing isolation, upended travel plans, closed schools, and restricted activity for an indefinite period of time. The death toll is rising daily with no end in sight. It is enough to send the calmest person into a tailspin of anxiety and depression. For those with pre-existing depression, anxiety, panic disorder, ADHD, PTSD, and other mental and/or behavioral disorders, it can feel especially overwhelming. Here are a few suggestions to help you during this unsettling time. Some of these suggestions may come more easily than others. And, some people may find that with the best of intentions and effort, depression and anxiety is still hard to overcome in these difficult times. That is ok, too. There is help available through the network of professionals who are available through Telementalhealth.
Telementalhealth is a online therapy or psychological counseling and support provided over the internet through video conferencing or a phone call. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, some insurance companies routinely denied coverage for Telehealth services. However, now that social distancing has become a health concern, most insurance companies, including Medicare, have embraced, even encouraged, the use of Telehealth.
But, try some of the things listed below first.
· Choose one unbiased news source, and allow yourself a limited amount of time (less than 30 minutes) to watch/read/listen each day. Not enough news can sabotage your effort to be well prepared. Too much news can sabotage your well-being. Find the balance.
· Avoid unhealthy habits. It may feel like a good time to use tobacco or alcohol to reduce stress, but in fact, substances will not only harm your immune system, but will leaving you feeling more out-of-control. Physical health is important in the face of a pandemic.
· Maintain a routine for yourself and your family. Do not fall into the temptation to do nothing, even if it seems that there is nothing to do. Wake up and go to bed at the same times each day. Prepare meals and eat at scheduled times. Maintain a scheduled life.
· Get exercise, even if you never did so before. Now, more than ever, exercise is the best medicine for mood. If you have physical limitations, do whatever you can.
· REFRAME your thoughts. It might feel like you are “STUCK” at home. Try reframing that to a more useful thought of “SAFE” at home. Begin to think about replacing negative thoughts and words with positive thoughts and words. It may not come easily at first, but with a little determination, it will become more natural to you.
· Do not allow yourself to isolate. Distancing does not mean isolating. Make phone calls, write emails, use video. Reach out to other people and maintain relationships. Isolation can lead to depression and worsening anxiety. With fewer opportunities to interact at work/school/gym/activities, people may feel that it is harder to maintain friendships. Use the resources you have to connect with others.
· Practice your hobbies or try new ones. Hobbies are a great source of joy and also distraction!
· Remember that is it normal to feel that things are out of your control right now. Let go of that which you cannot control. Concentrate on what you CAN control at this time- things like your routine, hobbies, and reframing thoughts.
· Talk to children. They feel out of control, too. Allow them to ask questions and reassure them that even though you may not have all the answers, you will be there and will protect them in the best way you can.
While many people are experiencing some of the following symptoms, if you have 4 or more of the symptoms below, please reach out to a professional for help.
-changes in sleep habits
-increase or decrease in appetite
-feelings of being overwhelmed
-feelings of constant worry or anxiety
-mood swings and/or extreme irritability
-low self esteem
-loss of sex drive
-use of alcohol or drugs to cope or relax
If you feel that these symptoms are extreme, please reach out for help today. You can receive confidential, HIPAA Compliant, psychotherapy in your home while maintaining social distancing and utilizing your insurance benefits.