Know the Facts about Coronavirus in our Community

Mental Health Support During COVID-19 Outbreak

Here are ways to maintain good mental health and how to seek help if you or your loved ones are struggling during the COVID-19 outbreak.

April 15, 2020

Woman at home sad about coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has brought many changes to our lives. Feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression are common during this time. You may be worried about getting sick, how long the COVID-19 outbreak will last, financial issues, and more.

“In humans, change of any type can cause stress,” explained Eve Gotham, LCSW-R, Senior Director of Clinical Excellence and Children’s Mental Health at Rochester Regional Health. “During times of extreme stress, everyone responds differently.”

A new study by experience data company Qualtrics of 2,700 people found that 67% of respondents say they are more stressed since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, and 57% say they have higher anxiety.  

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says stress during an infectious disease outbreak can cause several issues, such as:

  • fear or worry about your health and the health of loved ones
  • changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • worsening of chronic health problems
  • increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

“Keeping track of your mental health and coping with stress is especially important,” Gotham said. “Everyone reacts to stress differently. The way you respond to stress may differ from the way your loved ones do, but that doesn’t make either reaction invalid.”

Here are a few ways to maintain good mental health and how to seek help if you or your loved ones are struggling.

1. Manage media consumption

With the flood of information about the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to be selective on how you consume news. Stick with a few reputable sources for news and information.

“Set aside a specific amount of time each day when you do not consume news or use social media,” Gotham said.

To avoid too much negative news and reduce stress and anxiety, put the following limits on media consumption:

  • Set time limits on how long you consume news and information
  • Always verify sources before reading their information
  • Avoid leaving the news on in the background all day. Listening to information on COVID-19 can take a toll on mental health and cause an increase in anxiety and depression.

“Vary your activities to avoid spending too much time consuming media. Read books, do puzzles, play games or watch movies,” said Gotham.

2. Stay connected to others

The way you interact with people has also changed. But keeping in touch with those you care about is still possible.

“Human beings are social animals. Try to find ways to maintain social connections during this time of distance.”

How to stay connected while staying apart

  • Connect through phone, email and video chat
  • Plan virtual dinners
  • Play online multi-player games
  • Watch virtual concerts together
  • Read the same book or watch the same show and discuss
  • Share your feelings with those you trust
  • If you live with others, maintain open communication about needs, expectations, and boundaries
  • Offer help to others and ask for help when you need it
  • If talking about COVID-19 is affecting your mental health, set limits with others about when and how much you talk about COVID-19

3. Maintain physical wellness

Since you are staying home more often, you may be getting less exercise. Keeping movement and physical activity in your daily routine will help maintain mental health.

How to get exercise while social distancing

  • Go for a walk
  • Ride your bike
  • Take short stretch breaks
  • Enroll in online classes
  • Practice yoga
  • Work on household activities

Sarah Lane, an exercise physiologist and wellness coach at Rochester Regional Health’s Wellness Center, provides several online yoga and exercise videos to help you keep up with physical wellness.

“Be mindful about other aspects of physical health as well. Get enough sleep, maintain a healthy diet, and avoid tobacco and alcohol.”

4. Stick to a routine

With so much uncertainty, formulating a new daily routine and sticking to it is a great way to keep mental health on track and reduce stress and anxiety.

“Routinely practicing gratitude is a good way to get through hard times,” Gotham said. “Think of two to three things that you are grateful for each day and write them down. This helps turn our minds away from stress, anxiety, and all of the unknown that exists right now.”

Learn more about developing a healthy routine

5. Ask for help

Although in-person meetings are on hold, there are plenty of resources to help maintain mental health.

Whether it’s online, an application on a phone, or a virtual meeting with a counselor or therapist, there are many ways to seek help for those who need it.

Apps for mental wellness:

Headspace offers meditation, sleep and movement exercises that help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Several audio tracks guide you through various exercises, including some curated for children.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo teamed up with Headspace to offer free content for people in New York who are struggling with stress and anxiety surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The app is normally $12.99 a month, but many aspects of the app are now available for free.

If you’re a healthcare professional, Headspace is offering all services for free through the end of 2020.

Talkspace is an app that can connect you with a therapist and host virtual meetings with them.

MDLive is an urgent care app that offers therapy. The app will connect you with a counselor or therapist for virtual meetings.

Rochester Regional Health CareNow Telehealth is available for new and existing patients with all services now available.

For an immediate appointment for mental health or chemical dependency services with our remote recovery tele-support group, call 922-9900.