How to Cope with Coronavirus-Caused Mental Health Concerns
Today, it feels like everything has changed—it’s either been closed, postponed, or canceled. Some states have officially shut down. You’re working from home, while watching your kids (and trying to teach them). You haven’t seen or hugged your loved ones in weeks.
If you’re struggling with all of this, know you’re not alone. And know that there are concrete (small) steps you can take to feel better.
Below are three mental health concerns you might be currently struggling with—and how you can effectively navigate them.
Concern: You feel disconnected and lonely.
You miss seeing your parents, taking walks with your best friend, and eating lunch with your coworkers. Whatever travel plans you had—like visiting your family in the spring—are now canceled. And you’re (understandably) devastated.
The good news is that we can bust loneliness by getting creative, which gives us the opportunity to connect in different, maybe even deeper ways. For example, tap into technology by using Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime to virtually play games together, said Sheva Rajaee, MFT, founder of The Center for Anxiety and OCD in Irvine, Calif.
Or try these additional connection boosters with your loved ones, which come from Clinton Power, a clinical relationship counsellor and founder of Clinton Power + Associates in Sydney, Australia:
- Watch the same movie at the same time and text about your reactions
- Create a shared Spotify playlist and listen together
- Read a chapter of the same book every day and talk about it
- Start the same project or learn the same skill
New York City psychotherapist and coach Kate Crocco, MSW, LCSW, suggested being the first person to reach out. “Often the best medicine for fear and sadness is being there for someone else.”
If you don’t have anyone, she said, “this is a such a great time to find an online community.” Recently, Crocco joined a free Facebook group for moms of toddlers to meet others and learn about new activities.
Concern: You have catastrophic thoughts.
During such a painful, unprecedented time, it’s natural to get sucked into worst-case-scenario thinking. And it doesn’t matter how many times you reassure yourself that everything will be fine, you only end up feeling worse.
This makes sense. “We are in a catastrophic situation, so some level of catastrophic thinking feels appropriate,” said Jenn Hardy, Ph.D, a psychologist with a private practice in Maryville, Tenn. “The last thing that our anxiety needs to hear is some type of patronizing and dismissive reassurance.”
Instead, Hardy suggested acknowledging that your concerns have validity in our current climate.
It also can help to remind yourself that these catastrophic thoughts aren’t “expressions of facts,” Rajaee said. Rather, they’re “expressions of fear”—our brain’s way of trying to protect us, she said.
In addition, Hardy suggested using self-soothing strategies. Take a long bath. Practice yoga. Watch a funny film. Another option, Hardy said, is to carve out time to problem-solve your concerns. What are your biggest concerns? What can you control? What’s the first step you can take?
Concern: You feel overwhelmed and paralyzed.
As you’re scrolling social media, it can feel like everyone’s got it together. You see photos of elaborate home-schooling plans, new productivity systems, and decluttered closets. And you’re just trying to motivate yourself to shower and put on sweatpants.
Give yourself permission to feel overwhelmed without bashing yourself. As L.A. marriage and family therapist Stacey Sherrell said, “there is no wrong way to feel during a pandemic. We are all in uncharted territory and there is no rule book or guidelines to follow regarding how you should feel.”
Arizona psychologist Rosy Saenz-Sierzega, Ph.D, suggested acknowledging how you feel and focusing on your current surroundings. She shared this example: “I am afraid, but I am safe. I am in my apartment, my husband is on his computer, my dog is asleep on the sofa, Dave Matthews is playing on my sound system, and I am safe.”
You can also try these strategic actions:
- Unfollow or mute accounts that only post about devastation and struggle, said Sherrell.
- Give your days some structure, such as adding a 5-minute morning meditation; taking an evening walk around your block; or engaging in familiar tasks like making dinner with your family, said Rajaee.
- Carve out 20 minutes of quiet time each day to “help maintain a sense of stability,” Rajaee said. This is when you might read a book, listen to calming or energizing music, journal, or do a yoga video.
Sherrell also stressed the importance of reaching out for support if your anxiety and worry feel debilitating. For example, Coronavirus Online Therapy offers low-cost short-term online therapy, and the Crisis Text Line will connect you with a crisis counselor when you text HOME to 741741, she said.
One of the best ways to cope during any difficult, devastating time is to be patient, kind, and understanding. With others. With yourself.
More About Coronavirus: Psych Central Coronavirus Resource
Tartakovsky, M. (2020). How to Cope with Coronavirus-Caused Mental Health Concerns. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-cope-with-coronavirus-caused-mental-health-concerns/