The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to enormous repercussions for people around the world.
There are so many worries and fears that people have. There are health concerns, and then there are the financial consequences that have come with economic shutdowns.
There are also the people on the front lines of the pandemic, including first responders and medical professionals who are grappling with an unknown virus.
According to Darras Law, while we are learning more about coronavirus and the treatments seem to be getting better, and deaths appear to be declining, the mental health effects might last far beyond 2020 for many people.
From job loss to isolation, it’s important to be aware of your own mental health and to check in with the people you love.
Everyone Reacts to Stress Differently
You may feel like you’re much more stressed than others around you about coronavirus or its effects. That’s normal, and people react to stress differently.
People also have different levels of fear in different situations. What may seem incredibly overwhelming for one person may not be as anxiety-producing for someone else.
Some of the people who may have the strongest reactions to the stress of COVID-19 include:
- People who are considered high-risk to develop severe illness if they contract COVID-19, such as older people or people with certain underlying health conditions.
- Children and teens.
- Health care providers and other frontline workers.
- Essential workers.
- People with existing mental health concerns.
- Individuals with a substance use disorder.
- Someone who’s lost their job or experienced major employment changes.
- People who live alone and are socially isolated.
If you have a pre-existing mental health condition or a substance use disorder, you may be especially vulnerable to the effects of stress such as what’s stemming from the crisis situation created by coronavirus. It’s important that you’re aware of your risk factors so you can take steps to care for yourself.
What’s Normal and What’s Not?
Again, stress is a normal reaction to certain things in life, and of course, a pandemic would qualify as a stressful situation. It’s imperative that you do give yourself some understanding if you’re experiencing stress but you also have to be able to recognize when things you’re experiencing or feeling might go beyond what’s considered “normal.”
If you have ongoing feelings of sadness or helplessness that aren’t situational and don’t go away, it could be a red flag. If you’re experiencing symptoms like problems concentrating, body aches, or changes in appetite, and these symptoms last for several days in a row, it may go beyond stress. Also if your symptoms are causing problems in your functionality in your daily life, it may not be considered just normal stress.
Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19
If you’re struggling during COVID-19, there are things you can do to take care of yourself and perhaps help your mental health.
Self-care is important for everyone right now.
Make sure that you have a good sleep routine and schedule and that you get plenty of sleep each night.
Regularly exercise because movement can help boost your mood and reduce anxiety. If you can find an activity you can safely and comfortably do outside, even better. Getting sunlight is good for your mental health and it’s also an important part of your physical health because it provides vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to worse COVID outcomes.
Don’t give into the temptation to cope with stress by eating unhealthy foods, such as refined sugar and packaged items.
Be careful about your consumption of alcohol because it can make mental health symptoms worse.
Also, aim to limit your screen time. Whether it’s a TV, your phone, or a computer, too much time in front of a screen is going to breed more anxiety and also keep you from engaging in more healthy activities.
If you can turn off the news, you’re likely going to see some big improvements in your mental health just from taking that one step. Constant news about COVID-19 and other things going on in the world right now is incredibly stressful. Social media can expose you to conflict and false information as well.
Know what your triggers are and actively work to avoid them.
For example, if you’re constantly refreshing the COVID death counter on your computer, then you’re triggering yourself over and over again.
Keep a journal for a week where you write down the situations that make you feel most anxious or depressed. After that week is up, look over them and start to identify those patterns that could be your triggers.
Work on training your brain to avoid them and break the loop.
We don’t even realize that sometimes we become addicted to bad news or things that trigger us.
We then put ourselves into a negative emotional spiral. If you can be more mindful and create a replacement for yourself when you find that you want to engage in these triggering behaviors, it can help your mental health.
Get Help If You Need It
By recognizing red flags and warning signs, you may be positioned to get help for yourself if you need it. It’s important to be proactive about seeking help when it comes to your mental health because otherwise the condition can worsen.
There are many options available to you.
One option is to seek support from the people in your life.
You might also reach out to someone who’s part of your faith community.
If your employer has an assistance program, they can provide you with a referral to a mental health profession.
There are organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that can put you in contact with service providers and programs.
You can also talk to your primary care doctor and talk about what your options could be.
What’s most important through all of this is that you realize you aren’t alone. Be compassionate with yourself, and do what you need to do to stay mentally healthy.