Coping with COVID-19: Keeping your mental health in mind
March 26, 2020
We are currently in the midst of a global pandemic, COVID-19, which is impacting the way we live our daily lives. While there is concern for protecting our physical health, it is imperative that we take the preventative steps to care for our mental and emotional health as well. Kerry Hopson, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Granville Primary Care, Butner-Creedmoor, shares the symptoms and warning signs that may indicate worsening mood, and provides examples of an action plan that can help you and your family during this time.
Warning Signs & Symptoms
Although these may be more obvious to pinpoint for some, mental health symptoms are not always easy to identify. During this time, it is expected to feel more socially isolated due to the social distancing sacrifices we are making to contain the spread of COVID-19. It is also normal to experience increased worry, anxiety, physical tension, and feeling as if you are living on edge. Considering how the economy has been impacted, people are undergoing increased pressures to take on roles and responsibilities with which they are less accustomed. This may lead to irritability, helplessness, and despair with facing the unknown. It is also normal to feel lost with your changing routine, including grieving your normal daily schedule. If you already have pre-existing mental health conditions, this can put you at increased risk for a mental health crisis.
What to do: Coping with COVID-19
- Separate yourself from the news and social media regarding COVID-19. Instead, set aside a specific time to check-in with the latest updates to have greater control over how and when you receive information. Consider what you would like children to know about the news, and find creative ways (i.e. art, writing, through play) to communicate age-appropriate information. Be willing to have open discussions to avoid bottling up of emotions.
- Be willing to find different ways to socialize and help out in ways that will still comply with social distancing mandates. Classes and services are being offered in the community through downloadable apps on your tech devices. There is an active toll-free Hope Line that has been established for older adults experiencing isolation and loneliness. The number is 1-866-578-4673 (HOPE). Find ways to connect with your loved ones and roommates at home by playing cards and board games, sharing fond memories and stories, or learning something new to cook together. Check-in with professionals in your field and ask about how they’re coping with the changes and offer support to those who are unemployed or to those who are on the front lines.
- Maintain a daily routine. You do not have to change into your work clothes every day if you are staying at home, but get out of those pajamas. Consider family meetings with children to discuss daily structure and expectations, and allow for them to give their feedback to encourage creativity and compliance with the new routine. Stick to your regular sleep/wake cycle and do not deviate from this, as it could be even harder to adjust when things return to normal. This can also make people more vulnerable to increased mood symptoms.
- Find a way to maintain exercise and step outside with still complying with social distancing. Consider taking a walk, working in your garden, and using online exercise videos to maintain physical and mental wellbeing. Have an accountability buddy or tech device keep track of your progress. Daily exercise can help you prevent gaining the “quarantine 15” that comes with inactivity.
- Focus on what you can control. Acknowledge the vulnerability we are experiencing. Tell yourself, “This is hard now, but this is time limited”. Take slow deep breaths for 5-10 minutes at a time, and find a calm place to practice this skill for relaxation. Breathe in through your nose, pause briefly, and exhale even slower through your mouth. You may also place an object on your stomach or chest to see the rise and fall of the breath. Notice and release any tension you are holding (i.e. shoulders, jaw, neck).
- Reassess your priorities. This is a life changing experience for many. Engage in self-reflection on the things that matter most to you. Consider rearranging your priorities, make plans for social outings following the quarantine, and express appreciation to those around you who have helped you in a time of need.
If you feel like you need professional guidance during this time, many mental health counselors are using telehealth methods to provide therapeutic support. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, use the available resources below.
Mobile Crisis: (800)-939-5911
Crisis Textline: Text TALK to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
Kerry Hopson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, providing behavioral health consultations to patients of Granville Primary Care, Butner-Creedmoor, located at 1614 NC Highway 56, Creedmoor, NC 27522.
Schedule a mental health consultation with a primary care provider at the Butner-Creedmoor clinic by calling 919-575-6103, with Behavioral Health Services by calling 919-690-3217, or online at ghshospital.org.