A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

3 ways to focus on your mental health during COVID-19

A woman relaxes while petting a cat.

It’s natural for people to feel overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some ways you can help manage your mental health during this time.

Editor’s note: This article was published on March 27, 2020. COVID-19 information and recommendations are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website or view our most recent COVID-19 blog posts.

It’s natural for people of all ages to feel overwhelmed during the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While everyone may react differently, emotions such as fear, anxiety and sadness can be experienced frequently during a difficult time such as this.

“In a time of uncertainty and change, particularly given the available information, these types of emotions are common and to be expected,” said Dr. Justin Schoen, psychiatrist at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “This can have an effect on your physical and mental health.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided key info on what stress may look like during COVID-19 and what individuals can do to cope with the situation.

Signs of stress

Anxiety and stress during COVID-19 can have an impact on your mental health and overall well-being in a variety of ways. The CDC notes these signs can include:

  • Fear about your health and the health of others.

Dr. Schoen notes that more than 60% of Americans are worried about their family and loved ones getting COVID-19, according to a study.

Other signs of stress include:

  • A change in your sleep or eating patterns.
  • Problems sleeping or focusing.
  • Worsening of chronic health conditions.
  • An increase in drug use.

How can you help manage your mental health during COVID-19?

Daily activities you can do to lift up yourself and those around you may be the answer. You can connect with your family and friends through means that promote social distancing, and relax and focus on your physical health. While these things may always be important, this is especially true during a pandemic.

Stay in touch with your loved ones

Social distancing is an essential step in slowing the spread of the virus. However, even if you can’t visit your friends or family in person, connecting with them virtually is a great way to cope with the situation. Schoen adds that you should never worry alone. Use technology to video chat and text each other to see how everyone is doing and offer support.

Take breaks from COVID-19 news

It’s vital to stay up-to-date on the latest information about the outbreak, but the information can be upsetting if consumed constantly. Make sure to take some time to relax and focus on activities and hobbies you enjoy.

Exercise and eat healthy

Whether it’s by taking walks with your dog or trying meditation, taking proper care of your body can have a positive impact. The CDC recommends getting plenty of sleep, avoiding drugs and alcohol and eating well-balanced meals.

If you or a loved one are feeling that stress is getting in the way of your day-to-day life, contact your health care provider. If you or a loved one are feeling overwhelmed and feel like you want to harm yourself, call 911 or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990.

“We will get through this and we are better together,” Schoen said.

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