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Coping with coronavirus and the accompanying disease — called COVID-19 — isn’t easy. Many people feel overwhelmed by anxiety and fear. Your fear is shared among millions of people around the world.
How do you address and help your mental health at a time of a global pandemic? Part of the fear and anxiety so many of us are feeling is perfectly reasonable and a perfectly rational response to a terrifying pandemic. We must all prepare ourselves for months of physical — not social — distancing, for physical (not not social) isolation. Because unlike any other previous time in the history of the world, we can all remain socially connected online.
You not only need to take care of your physical self and take suggested public health precautions (such as regular, rigorous hand-washing, staying home as much as possible, and avoiding contact with others who are sick). Your emotional self also needs to be prepared for the psychological stress it’s going to endure in the coming months. Remember, you can always obtain the most helpful and accurate information about the outbreak through organizations such as the
How do you cope with the coronavirus anxiety? How do you maintain your mental health in times of COVID-19 fear? Keep calm and understand that by taking a number of precautions, you’ll be best prepared to physically and mentally withstand the pandemic and its impact on your neighbors, family, and friends. We’ll be continuously updating this page in the coming weeks to ensure you always have the most up-to-date information on how to keep mentally and emotionally healthy during this trying time. Be safe, be well.
In her article, We’re All in This Together: Facing the Coronavirus Crisis, Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW provides insightful perspective and offers up 32 different ideas on how to keep your mind and yourself occupied while staying at home. She also shares how she’s coping with the crisis, and how she’s dealing with her clients and their needs during the outbreak.
“The Stoics believed that we need to accept those things that we can’t change and work to change things that are within our power to change.” Philosophy can help guide our response and the way we decide to expend our resources during the outbreak. Dr. Ronald Pies, M.D. provides some perspective and ways to help keep our calm through his article, How the Stoics Can Keep Us Calm During the Coronavirus Outbreak.
There are four proven ways to help cope with anxiety and stress caused by the outbreak, as I noted in my article, Coronavirus Anxiety: 4 Ways to Cope with Fear. These include:
- Keep the risk in perspective
- Take normal, healthy precautions
- Avoid over-consumption of media
- Use your past coping skills
I’ll also add a fifth one here, because I believe it bears repeating. It helps to focus on things that are within your immediate control in life, and to put aside (and stop thinking about) things that you have little to no control over. For instance, most people have no control over how much the virus will spread within their community or country. All we can do is to focus on what we personally can do, for ourselves and our own family, to help reduce the spread and decrease our risk of exposure.
For people looking for additional ideas on how to cope with anxiety due to the outbreak, Dimitrios Tsatiris, MD offers the following tips in his similar article, How to Cope with Anxiety from the Coronavirus.
First, he suggests it helps to understand your odds, not only of exposure, but also what might happen if you get infected. Most people experience only mild symptoms. If you’re older, your risk increases for worse symptoms, and even possible hospitalization. Second, he encourages us to recognize what we can control. We all have control over our own exposure risk, by following CDC and WHO guidelines on how to keep from getting infected by the virus in the first place. Third, he suggests we increase our “dose” of coping skills, whether it be journaling, meditation, relaxation or breathing exercises, exercise, or something else. Fourth, he suggests limiting media consumption, because it just reinforces our emotional response. Finally, he notes that anxiety has a cost in our lives, and to recognize that cost and put it into perspective.
Andrea Schneider, MSW, LCSW also offers some great tips in her article, Hunkering Down: 4 Brain-Wise Ways to Cope During COVID-19, on how to keep calm and attend to your mental health needs during the outbreak and staying at home. She offers a wealth of ideas on what you can do to cope during your time at home. These include:
- Practice (or learn): yoga, mindfulness based meditation, abdominal breathing, tai chi, EMDR (a therapeutic modality that utilizes bilateral movements), somatic experiencing (therapeutic modality), and bilateral movements outside in nature (like hiking or walking)
- Engage in creative outlets (or learn new ones): draw, paint, sculpt, dance, listen to music, sing, play an instrument, write poetry, and act.
- Engage in cognitive-behavioral techniques (or learn new ones): journal, do cognitive behavioral therapy with a trained therapist, read books about cognitive restructuring, draw a timeline and label the road-map with the story of our journey, talk with trusted others for validation and support.
- Engage in “supreme self-care”, which includes: good sleep, nutrition, exercise, keeping in touch with friends & loved ones, psychotherapy, spiritality, and more.
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert in order to do all of these things. Now is a great to learn or to try something new. For instance, meditation and relaxation exercises are easily learned through reading articles online, or watching YouTube videos.
Beth Kurland, Ph.D., in her article, Coping Strategies in Uncertain Times: Calming Your Nervous System During the Coronavirus Outbreak, writes about strategies that focus on our basic human needs — for safety, satisfaction and connection. For instance, we can meet our needs for safety by:
- Using our rational mind
- Focus on what is in our control
- Focus on inviting something else in to replace our fear
- Work with mental rumination
- Have anchors and refuges
- Focus on what you already have
Not every therapist provides telehealth services — that is, conducting therapy over the telephone or a video conference service. If you find yourself in need of immediate assistance for a mental health need or crisis situation, please make use of one of the below services, most of which are available to you at no cost.
Crisis Text Line Text with a trained Crisis Counselor. Also available in the UK and Canada.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline If you’re feeling suicidal, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Disaster Distress Helpline Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
National Domestic Violence Hotline Isolated at home in an abusive situation and need help? Call 1-800-799-7233.
BetterHelp Online Counseling Get a 7-day free trial of online therapy by visiting our sponsor, BetterHelp.(Psych Central receives a small affiliate fee if you visit using this link.)
Podcast: Don’t Let Coronavirus Impact Your Mental Health The Psych Central Podcast
Podcast: Coronavirus – How to Keep it Together The Psych Central Podcast
Podcast: Managing Coronavirus Outbreak Anxiety The Psych Central Podcast
Staying at Home Coping Support Livestream on Facebook
Held on our Facebook channel, every Friday from 1:00 – 2:00 pm ET (10:00 – 11:00 am PT). Please join us!
Coronavirus Support #1 Livestream on Facebook March 27, 2020
Coronavirus Support #2 Livestream on Facebook April 3, 2020