Coping During COVID
We’ve been talking about mental health and wellbeing more and more in the U.S., especially since “coronavirus” became a household word. Our mental health affects our ability to enjoy life. It also impacts how we participate in relationships, make our decisions, and handle stress in our personal lives and at work. Many things factor into whether a person develops a mental illness, including early life experiences, chronic medical conditions, genetics, family history, and use of alcohol or recreational drugs.
Living through stressful situations, like a pandemic, also affects mental health. Although most of us have lived during at least one other pandemic, our daily lives have never been impacted on a wider scale than during the COVID-19 pandemic. In any given year (without a pandemic!), one out of five Americans experiences a mental illness. A May 2020 survey in the U.S. showed that about 90% of the people who responded had experienced at least some emotional distress related to the pandemic. Higher distress was associated with more clinical indicators of depression and anxiety, more life stress, and, not surprisingly, less happiness. Experts also believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-term impacts on mental health and wellbeing.
Knowing that we’re in this for the long haul, it’s important we do what we can to take care of our mental health and wellbeing. Try one or more of the tips below to strengthen mental health. The stronger our mental health is, the more resilient we become—meaning we can bounce back from illness, hard luck, or other negative life changes.
- Take care of your physical self. This lessens the negative physical effects of mental health disorders. Eat a mostly healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep (7-9 hours/night for most adults).
- Minimize alcohol intake and avoid recreational drugs. Drug use can get in the way of functioning at home and work, having healthy relationships, and sustaining overall health.
- Find purpose. Volunteer with an organization that you identify with, find activities that make you feel productive or set and accomplish small goals.
- Be mindful. Take a break from social media and focus on a task or person, or be mindful by meditating, journaling, praying, or practicing yoga.
- Stay positive. Try to see what you want in the future instead of worrying about what you fear.
Finally, remember there is help out there. Seeking help for ourselves and others when it’s needed makes us stronger, not weaker. Free and confidential resources: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK; National Helpline for mental health and/or substance use issues: 1-800-662-HELP; and Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator for help in your area-- https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.