We’re living through scary times. With the fast-spreading COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, people of the world over are acting to protect themselves and their loved ones against a health threat none of us have seen in our lifetime.
But while concern over our physical health certainly deserves our attention, addressing the mental health concerns accompanying the current pandemic can get lost in the shuffle, and as a result grow more severe in the shadow of such a monumental emergency. This can be all the more poignant for those already dealing with a pre-existing mental health condition, such as depression or OCD, both of which can become exacerbated due to the current coronavirus situation.
For this reason, it is also vital that we work to protect our mental, emotional, cognitive and social needs in times of crisis.
The ever-growing number of data and sources on COVID-19 can provide important information. However, the sheer volume and near-constant updating on this subject can also confuse and leave us unsure who to listen to. For this reason, during such periods of a sweeping medical emergency, it is advisable to focus on established, credible sources of information to learn about the current threat and how to best prepare and manage it. Such sources include the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and local, reputable government health agencies. You can find the latest updates, better-supported research findings, global and local tracking of the virus, and the means by which governments are reacting to the pandemic at sources like these.
There is no way around the fact that we are in the midst of a very stressful moment in time. And while government organizations and private initiatives are hard at work to find a COVID-19 vaccine and treatments to slow the infection progression, the world as a collective continues to deal with an upended reality, where all adults are susceptible to the virus, and the most direct way to prevent such an infection is to self-isolate yourself.
Due to all this, reducing one’s stress at present can definitely be easier said than done. Nevertheless, it can be beneficial to try and address this issue, so as to protect even moderately your sense of stability and relative calm.
Commonly practiced and effective techniques such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness can all help lower stress levels over the coronavirus. Additionally, acts of self-care and even indulging in pleasurable activities like eating a favorite food, binge-watching on a TV show and unplugging every so often from the news can help improve your overall mood. In times of stress, you do what you can to get by. Ensure that you stay in communication with family and friends via phone or video chat to reduce your sense of isolation as well.
Many mental health professionals have been offering online treatments over video-conference programs such as Skype, Zoom or Google Hangout, as well as telehealth platforms such as Talkspace, for some time now. The option of online therapy is particularly valuable in situations like the one we are currently finding ourselves in, where face-to-face communication is best to be avoided. Those who are already in therapy may be able to work out a setting that would allow it to continue while in self-isolation. Those who are interested in beginning treatment are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider, ask friends and family for a recommendation, or look for online for one, in an effort to find a treatment course and mental health expert that can help them cope with the present situation.
A number of mental health advocacy organizations offer resources for coping with the coronavirus outbreak. These include:
This tip may seem obvious, but in fact, during times of crisis, many of us choose to keep our problems to ourselves, in an effort to “spare” our loved ones the added weight of our troubles. As a result, both parties may begin to suffer in silence, as an emotional quarantine starts taking hold.
Sharing what we’re going through with someone else is an intimate form of communication. Many times, it has more to do with kinship, trust, compassion and unity than looking for any practical solution. It can certainly be hard to hear that someone you care about is suffering, when facing their emotional pain may cause you to contend with your own feelings of helplessness and frustration.
Turning to someone for support is not something one necessarily feels comfortable doing. At the end of the day, it takes a lot of strength to be willing to open yourself up to another person by acknowledging your own vulnerability. Perhaps that idea can guide you as you consider asking another to lend you their strength, even as you are willing to give them your own.