Supporting Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak
For most people the mental health effects of the coronavirus outbreak will be felt sooner, and possibly more seriously, than the physical effects. From a mental health perspective, there are things you can be doing now to help you reduce the impact of anxiety and worry in this high stress situation.
Everywhere I look I keep seeing people who are stressed by the news about the coronavirus. We are getting bombarded with information online and on the news from experts and politicians and friends. We aren’t sure what to believe. Most of us have never been in this type of pandemic situation before, so we aren’t sure what to do. We are worried simultaneously about over-reacting and under-reacting.
Possible Mental Health Effects
As we think about our mental health and the coronavirus, people are feeling anxious, worried, scared and uncertain about their health and how this virus will affect them, their families and their communities.
We also need to think about the effects of isolation that comes from social distancing and quarantine. While some of us might crave time alone, being forced into isolation is different. While quarantine is an important strategy for limiting exposure to the coronavirus, it can have significant psychological impact (source). Imagine being away from people, not able to do the things you enjoy, and not feeling like you are contributing or using your gifts.
It is also important to look at the impact of the stress on health care workers. When there is high demand on the health care system, they may face short and longer term mental health effects including PTSD (source).
Support Your Mental Health
I don’t know any better than you what to do about the threat of the coronavirus. I’m washing my hands and trying to keep from panicking. My anxiety is definitely higher than usual, partly because I don’t feel I have any control over the coronavirus situation. I’m just waiting to see what happens, and waiting when I have no control over the outcome is stressful.
I know that stress has a big impact on my physical and mental health. Too much stress affects my sleep. It makes my stomach unsettled and it gives me headaches. I don’t feel it right away, but I also know that stress can affect my immune system. Being under stress for too long = getting sick. And with the coronavirus spreading, I want to be sure my immune system is at its best. In case you’re wondering, I’ve written about how gut health is connected to the immune system here and here.
I find that when I can shift my attention from all the uncertainty in the world to the present moment, I can settle my anxiety a bit. And, when I do this over and over, I can move from feeling agitated and overwhelmed, to feeling calmer and more in control. I can’t change what’s going on around me, but I can change my reaction in this moment. And that helps me feel more in control.
Resources You Can Use to Support Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak – and any other time you feel stressed, overwhelmed and uncertain
Whether there are confirmed cases in your community or not, reducing your stress and managing your anxiety is important to your mental and physical health. I’ve started gathering resources that are being shared to help people manage the stress from the coronavirus. I hope that these will be useful to you in managing your stress and supporting your mental health. Based on the information available now, it sounds like most people will find that their mental health will be affected before, and more than, their physical health.
Note: These resources aren’t meant to replace any advice from medical practitioners about managing your physical health, nor should you rely on stress management tools in place of medical advice.
Remember that your mental health needs attention and you can support your mental health even if you aren’t currently facing any physical risk.
The Tapping Solution App – Free meditation about Coronavirus Anxiety
Calm App/Headspace or other similar apps – Any of the mindfulness meditations
Mindful Magazine – How to Meditate with Anxiety
Arianna Huffington/THRIVE – Its time to spread the conversation about prevention
Centre for Disease Control – Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19 – This site has a great section about considering the impact of stress on your children, too.
New York Times – 5 Ways to Help Teens Managing Anxiety about the Coronavirus
The Conversation – 7 Science-Based Strategies to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety – These strategies will work with other types of anxiety too!
American Psychological Association – Speaking of Psychology: Coronavirus Anxiety (podcast recording and transcript)
New York Times – Exercise, Immunity and Coronavirus
The Guardian – How to Prepare Emotionally for Coronavirus Quarantine
And of course, fresh air, sunshine are always good for your mental health!