With the effects of the shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders, mental health issues are at an all-time high with more of us reporting symptoms and signs of anxiety and fear. According to a Healthline survey, 49 percent of respondents showed some signs of depression, ranging from mild to severe. Factors adding to an increase in anxiety, fear and depression are the concern for contracting the COVID-19 virus, lack of schedule, too much sleep or too little sleep, loss of social interaction, and potentially loss of job and loved ones.
The emotions we are feeling are related to a constant state of trauma. Ever since our world has been shifted upside down our mind and body have been in a constant state of fight or flight. Which is why many Americans are experiencing anxiety, fear, depression and exhaustion.
The CDC’s campaign, Be Kind to Your Mind, states five tips to cope with stress during COVID-19: Pause. Take Breaks. Make Time. Reach Out. Seek Help. We have taken these five steps and provided you with more detailed, suggested actions using our personal experiences and expertise.
Pause. If you start to feel overwhelmed or feel yourself needing to take a break, stop and breathe. Take a few minutes to center yourself and your thoughts. Notice how you are feeling and recognize the thoughts you are experiencing. Acknowledge those thoughts, and then breathe the anxious thoughts out and breathe the new peaceful thoughts in.
Take Breaks. Take the necessary breaks you need away from COVID-19 information and other content that may increase your anxiety, fear and depression. Although social media is a great tool to keep you connected to others at this time, the wide array of information and access to non-uplifting information can be overwhelming.
Make Time. Make time for sleep and exercise. According to sleepfoundation.org, the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night to function optimally. Getting too little or too much sleep can have a big impact on how your body functions during the day. Exercising is also key to your body functioning properly. Exercising regularly improves your energy levels, helps keep your memory sharper, and helps you sleep better. Exercise has also been shown to decrease depression. A study done by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. And, on top of ALL the health benefits for exercise, it has also been shown to reduce the number of days you get sick by 40-50%.
Reach Out. Never have we needed to be more connected with others than during this time of isolation. What a blessing it is that we have technology at our fingertips to keep us connected to those we love. Reach out to your friends and family regularly via text, calls and video conference calls. If appropriate where you live, gather as a small group in a socially distanced setting or get outside to move and breathe some fresh air together.
Seek Help. If you can’t shake the feeling of being overwhelmed or feel unsafe, seek help. Set an appointment with your general practitioner, therapist or counselor. If you are a person of faith, ask your faith leader or those in your faith circle who they would recommend. There are also a number of organizations that can help by providing support and resources.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline (open 24/7): 1-800-273-8255
- United Way Helpline (open 24/7): 1-800-233-4357
Taking these five steps may help in reducing your fears and anxieties during the uncertainty of COVID-19. We are in this time of crisis together so when/if you feel alone, please reach out for a helping hand to lift you up.