Mental Health

How to take care of our social and emotional wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic (Last updated on May 7, 2020)

HOW IS THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AFFECTING OUR MENTAL HEALTH?

Hearing and experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in our community can cause a variety of feelings on any given day, including stress and anxiety, especially in those who are disproportionately impacted by this crisis. Whether we are working from home, out of work all together, on the front lines helping others, juggling multiple responsibilities in the midst of much uncertainty and rapid change, or struggling to make sense of the situation, this pandemic is upending our lives in one way or another. As we follow preventive guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 such as physical distancing and stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, our communities are experiencing social and emotional implications from this pandemic.


HOW CAN WE COPE WITH STRESS AND ANXIETY DURING THIS PANDEMIC?

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and change, but there are things we can all do to protect our mental health during this time. Finding and carrying out healthy techniques to cope with stress and anxiety will help us tackle difficult situations with a better point of view. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay informed but remember to take breaks from the news. Watching, reading, or listening to COVID-19 news, even social media, frequently during the day can affect your emotional health.
  • Maintain a routine. Organizing your time and day can help you feel more productive and focused on the things within your control.
  • Take care of your body. Breathe deeply, stretch, and practice good hygiene habits. Try to eat healthy foods and reasonable portions. Drink water instead of sugary drinks and exercise regularly. Get enough sleep and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Take care of your mind. Practice mindfulness and acceptance techniques, such as meditating, praying, or focusing your attention on positive things, the things you are grateful for, and the present time.
  • Be kind to yourself. Practice self-compassion instead of self-judgment. Let yourself notice your feelings, including negative ones, without judging them as good or bad, and find ways to release your emotions in a healthy way.
  • Recharge yourself. Do activities that you enjoy. This can include taking time to yourself, doing indoor hobbies, reading a book, watching a movie, walking outside, or playing with your family.
  • Stay socially connected with others. Social (physical) distance does not mean social isolation. Communicate with others regularly and talk to people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Follow your regular mental health treatment plan (if you have one). Make sure you have enough medication and take it as prescribed. Continue with therapy appointments if your provider offers telehealth appointments, either by phone or video.

WHO IS AT HIGHER RISK OF STRESS AND ANXIETY DURING A PANDEMIC CRISIS?

Because people react differently to stress and anxiety, it is important to recognize that some people are more emotionally vulnerable than others during a pandemic crisis. People who may respond more strongly to emotional distress include:

  • Older people and/or those with underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk of developing complications from COVID-19.
  • People who are providing essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, like medical professionals, nurses, first responders, postal workers, truckers, grocery store workers, farm workers, cleaning crews, and construction workers.
  • Children and teens.
  • People who have mental health conditions.

Being anxious during this time is a completely normal response to stress but what’s key is how we learn to manage it effectively. It is important to pay attention to the signs that show when stress may be overwhelming and affecting emotional health too much in the short and long term. The signs that we should watch for in ourselves and others, and address if they worsen, feel excessive, or last for too long include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of loved ones.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems. · Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others.

If you, or someone you care about is feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, know that you are not alone. Please contact your local health provider or seek professional help: 

HOW DO WE RESPOND TO THE EMOTIONAL NEEDS OF CHILDREN?

Just as adults, children and teens may experience stress and anxiety from the events occurring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As daycare centers and schools shut down, many kids around the country are staying at home with their parents or caregivers and this drastic change in routine can cause emotional distress and a sense of uncertainty. For this reason, parents and caregivers have the great responsibility to take things calmly and confidently to be prepared to respond to any scenario produced by this crisis.

Responding to COVID-19 and its effects in our communities is not easy but here are some of the things you can do as a parent or caregiver to help your child manage these feelings:

  • Make time to talk with your children about COVID-19 and answer their questions in a way they can understand.
  • Help children feel safe and supported during uncertainty, and reassure them that this situation is temporary.
  • Anxiety and stress can cause behavioral changes in children. Let your children know that it is okay to be upset, sad, or restless while teaching them to express their emotions through words or through art, reading, and other activities.
  • Limit your family's exposure to news coverage about COVID-19, including social media, and instead spend more time with your children without any type of distractions.
  • Try to keep to your child’s regular routine as much as possible, with times and activities for learning, playing, and relaxing.
  • Be a role model with how you manage your own stress, anxiety, and other emotions and respond to your child’s emotional needs with patience.

HOW CAN WE REDUCE STIGMA RELATED TO COVID-19?

Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma towards people, places, or things. Coronavirus doesn’t recognize race, nationality, or ethnicity. No one should be harassed or discriminated against due to speculations and assumptions about who may have been exposed to the virus. Here are some tips we can follow to prevent stigma:

  • Rely on and share trusted sources of information.
  • Speak up if you hear, see, or read stigmatizing or harassing comments or misinformation. Report any type of discrimination to your local Office of Human Rights.
  • Show compassion and support for individuals and communities more closely impacted.
  • Avoid stigmatizing people who are in quarantine (a state, period, or place of isolation). They are making the right choice for their communities.
  • Do not make assumptions about someone’s health status based on their ethnicity, race, or national origin.

WHERE DO I FIND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES?

Webpages 

Infographics 

Tip Sheets & Guides