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Coronavirus and Mental Health; Yours and Your Children's

The fear, worry, and uncertainty that has come with the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, may be making it hard for you to sleep, eat, or concentrate. Your older relatives may be especially anxious. Your children may be irritable and acting out. You may be struggling with total physical isolation, or worries about finances. There’s no one right way to react to a pandemic, and there’s nothing wrong with how you feel. But if you were struggling with depression before this crisis, it may seem even more difficult to manage your emotions in uncertain times. It’s important to know you’re not alone and there are some things you can do to feel better so you have more left to give to the people you love, including yourself.

Tips to Care for Mental Health

Your day-to-day has likely changed dramatically as the COVID-19 response has ramped up. Your workload may be heavier or lighter, and you may either be working from home or in an unfamiliar place. You may have even lost your job as you’ve gained responsibility for child or elder care. Some people are glued to the stock market, while others can’t get out of bed. The following tips apply across the board.

Get the facts on COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but don’t binge the news. Take breaks and do the same things you enjoyed before COVID-19. Read a novel, work in the garden, make dinner, walk the dog. Take care of yourself by eating a little healthier and exercising a little more if you can. Try to avoid the temptation of turning to alcohol, nicotine, or drugs for relief from the worry. Ultimately, leaning on these habits to cope doesn’t really work in the long run. Reach out to a friend instead or give new relaxation techniques a try. Many free online resources are available for learning how to meditate and stretch.

If you have a mental health condition like depression, continue your current treatment and monitor whether your symptoms are getting worse. Look into options for talking with a healthcare provider online or by phone. You may not feel like reaching out to a support system virtually, but that can help, too.

Resources For Older Adults

If you’re an older adult, it’s understandable your anxiety may become heightened because your risk of getting COVID-19 and having more severe symptoms is higher. Taking these steps can ease your mind:

  • Embrace opportunities to learn new technology for communicating with your loved ones

  • Occupy your mind with a project like organizing old photos

  • Remind yourself that by taking precautions like social distancing, you’re contributing to the greater good

  • Stock up on food, medications, and other necessities (without being excessive) so you’re not worried about basic needs

If mental health issues make it hard to go about your everyday activities for several days at a time, call your doctor. Be sure to address any underlying medical conditions.

How to Help Your Kids With Coronavirus and Depression

Children and teenagers may have the same signs of depression as adults, and they tend to absorb their parents’ stress. They may cry more, revert to behaviors they’ve long outgrown, and avoid schoolwork. Working to set a calm tone is the best way to reassure them. It can help to:

  • Talk about COVID-19 at a level that is factual, age-appropriate, and understandable

  • Stick to the facts—they’re on your side—and avoid false reassurances your kids will see through, even if they’re asking for them

  • Validate your kids’ feelings without dismissing their concerns and share what you’re doing to feel better

  • Be sensitive that past stressors in your kids’ lives such as the divorce of their parents or the death of a grandparent can affect how they’re reacting now

  • Establish as much of a routine as you can without adding more stress

  • If it feels right, approach COVID-19 as an opportunity to learn about science and normalize it as a biological process

COVID-19 and Mental Health on the Front Lines

Healthcare workers are our COVID-19 heroes, but that doesn’t make them immune to stress, anxiety, and depression. If you’re a COVID-19 responder, you’re at risk of the same emotional fallout as everyone else as well as secondary traumatic stress (STS), also known as compassion fatigue. In order to provide the best care for others, it’s crucial to take good care of yourself. If you have any of these symptoms, ask for help:

  • Extreme feelings of fear, guilt, or anger

  • Emotional numbness

  • Hypervigilance

  • Exaggerated startle response

  • Elevated heart rate

  • Fatigue or other physical illness

Mental Health Resources

Remember, anything that’s happening with your emotions right now is OK, but as powerless as you may feel, most of us can take steps to regain a sense of control and lift our moods. You have additional resources if you need them, including:

Call 911 if you’re so overwhelmed by depression or anxiety that you fear you may cause harm to yourself or others.

We’re in uncharted territory when it comes to our response to this pandemic, and you may find yourself experiencing more frequent or severe depression symptoms. Turn to the tools you know have worked in the past, whether they’re mindfulness techniques, meditations, or medications, and reach out to loved ones and mental health professionals for support.

*This blog was written by Evelyn Creekmore for the website

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