Mental Health & COVID-19

Article No. 338

10 April 2020


Mental Health admist COVID-19

In challenging times, circumstances may find you feeling isolated or anxious, but likely many people additionally experience a sense of helplessness. You are not alone.
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept past geographic borders to impact people and nations around the world, serious issues about medical aspects and healthcare collided with societal concerns such as: economic burdens, resource allocations, family and personal relationships, lifestyle modifications, and other aspects. All of these pressures can affect people’s behaviors and mental health. All of these pressures are all too familiar among people living with a rare disease.
Problems may mount and tempers may flare, but that doesn’t mean you are powerless. Take time for a little-self care, perhaps starting with an inventory of your feelings about your current situation. It seems as if the coronavirus outbreak has touched every part of our lives, with changes that are not welcome.  We can’t deny the difficulties that COVID-19 has caused us, we can only be aware of these challenges and know that continuing on the same path isn’t productive.
Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters by Portia Nelson (1920-2001).  Book: There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery
Chapter 1 – I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am helpless.  It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
Chapter 2 – I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend that I don’t see it.  I fall in again.  I can’t believe I am in this same place.  But, it isn’t my fault.  It still takes a long time to get out.
Chapter 3 – I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I see it is there.  I still fall in … it’s a habit … but, my eyes are open.  I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
Chapter 4 – I walk down the same street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I walk around it.
Chapter 5 – I walk down another street.
Given what’s going on in your life during the coronvirus outbreak, what chapter do you feel you’re in at present? Accepting and managing the current COVID-19 situation means a large shift in actions and emotions for most of us – for yourself, for those around you, and for much of your former lifestyle and habits. It’s stressful for everyone, but not necessarily in the same way that you personally experience life at this moment. In his 23 March 2020 article (for the Harvard Business Review): That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief, author Scott Berinato wrote about the stresses experienced by many during the current pandemic. We must deal with the realities even as we recognize that we can’t control the health issues caused by the COVID-19 virus, nor the impact it has had on our families, employment, schools, relationships, or our finances. Now is a good time for self-discovery, and now is a good time for self-reliance.
There have been countless reminders to practice physical distancing, to exercise, and to stay positive. We’re very grateful for the dedication of healthcare workers and those essential workers who continue to support our everyday needs. Certainly we appreciate the personal sacrifices of all those who serve, protect, transport, support, and deliver – those people and groups who are working long hours and going the extra mile for others, even as their family and personal needs are more at risk of neglect. But it’s difficult to stay positive when you’re not sure if you’re doing ‘enough’ or ‘the right thing’, especially true when tempers flare, lines are long, bills are many, work has become unpredictable, and most of our daily lives have been upended to a large degree.
So what actually can you do during these challenging times? Don’t diminish your emotions. Know that you’re not the only one who feels unsettled in the current swirl of unpredictability, and many join with you in feeling a lack of control that seems to threaten the people and things we value in life. “Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.” (Randy Armstrong), an apt quote to keep in mind. Help yourself, and others. Take care of yourself, and prepare for better days ahead with realistic steps. Take stock of what you can do right now, with what you have available, and think creatively about how to maximize your time and resources. Even with physical distancing, there are ways to stay connected within your circumstances. Reach outside the physical and mental walls that the COVID-19 has threatened to surround us with, and envision this challenging time as an opportunity for self-growth and moving beyond the comfort zones we all keep in place.
Not sure where to start? Emotional and physical health are key, but stressful circumstances can undermine both. Check your local library or favorite online sources for resources, books and apps that may help you in dealing with challenges facing many of us during this COVID-19 outbreak. Many schools, businesses, and groups are offering waived or expanded access to information, assistance, and resources – check online for what’s available in your area. Fall back on an old hobby or creative outlet, or start a new one. Reflect on your life and our times, then think about what the term ‘resilience’ means to you – right here, right now.
It’s a great time to try meditation, to deepen or explore your faith and beliefs, and to revisit your goals and priorities in life. Reconnect with friends, family, and your community. Check out resources, which often are targeted to specific locations or circumstances. Many people are struggling with economic stressors due to lost income and mounting bills, and financial recovery will greatly vary upon resources in local communities and by national government programs. In the end, everyone will need to focus on practical steps that they can take to stay healthy (emotionally, economically, socially) and will need to regain or find new balance in their lives.
Seek help and support from those you know and from your local mental health communities. Offer that to others. If you are overcome with depression or feel you (or someone you love) may relapse into substance or other abuse – reach out, say something, get or offer help.
Here are a few examples of information, assets, and resource hubs to use as a starting point.

Mental Health & COVID-19

A Selection of Resources to Explore

General Info or Overviews
COVID-19 and your Mental Health:  Self Care, Signs of Concern  (Mayo Clinic USA)
Managing your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak  (Resource Hub, Mental Health UK)
Stress and Coping:  Targeted Sections Include: Differing Reactions to the Outbreak, for Responders, for Parents, More  (Centers for Disease Control, USA)
Managing and understanding mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic (Dani Fallin, John Hopkins University HUB)
Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak  (World Health Organization pdf, WHO)
Specific Topics
Coping With COVID-19 Anxiety: Frequently Asked Questions (Dr Jeffrey Cohen, PsyD:  Columbia University USA)
Talking with Children About Coronavirus  (Dr Dara Steinberg & Dr Anthony Puliafico, Child Psychologists: Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons USA)
Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus  (Rachel Ehmke, Child Mind Institute)
Cómo hablar con los niños sobre el coronavirus
Working Remotely During COVID-19:  Your Mental Health and Well-being (American Psychiatric Foundation)
Looking after children and yourself while working from home  (Mental Health UK)
Supporting older people during the COVID-19 pandemic is everyone’s business  (EU Reg for WHO, World Health Organization)
Tips for Providing Support to Others During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak  (US VA: National Center for PTSD)
How to Manage Financial Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic  (Article by A Morin, Social Worker: Very Well Mind, USA)
How to deal with your finances during a COVID-19 crisis you can’t control  (Article by Scott Hannah, credit counselor, for The Province, Canada)

Books – Many Available through Libraries’ Online or Cloud-Reader Services

Stopping the Noise in Your Head (to overcome Anxiety & Worry) (2016)
Author: Wilson, Reid
A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook  (2019)
Authors: Stahl, Bob; Goldstein, Elisha; Kabat-Zinn, Jon; Santorelli, Saki
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (2016)
Welcoming the Unwelcome  (2019)
Author of both: Chodron, Pema
Trauma Stewardship:  An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self when Caring for Others (2009)
Authors: Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk

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