By: Jessica Johns- Green, LPC
There is no doubt that Covid-19 is affecting everyone. Whether you are working from home, adjusting to the kids being home from school, or just fed up with the disruption, Covid-19 https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 is affecting close to everyone in Texas right now. Covid-19 has many of us thinking about how to protect our physical health against the virus. But with wide ranging shut downs and social distancing across the globe, our attention can also turn to what we’ll face next – when this virus is gone. It remains to be seen how Covid-19 will affect us in the longer term, but one area where we may notice it’s effects is in our mental health.
How might Covid-19 may be affecting your mental health
Although Covid-19 itself is a respiratory illness, the disruption to daily routines may be having profound effects on mental health. Aside from the physical danger of the virus itself, the strain of being on alert for potentially infectious situations throughout the day can take a toll. Many have lost jobs or in danger of losing jobs. The consequences of the virus and the measures taken to stop it may feel overwhelming, infuriating or traumatic. While there is no way to predict who will be affected and in what way, there are some issues that might make our mental health more vulnerable when life changes.
5 Mental Health issues to be aware of during the Covid-19 outbreak
1) Pre-existing or Past Anxiety Disorders
Fears of the virus or dealing with closures and restrictions might be fueling anxiety, even for people who have never had anxiety issues before. Or you might be someone who previously felt more in control of their symptoms and now is experiencing problems again. Threat centers in our brains often respond to triggers that feel the same in some way to past anxiety triggers.
Survival tip: Actively plan to cope with your anxiety during this time. Take time for physical activity, deep breathing and relaxation. Resist the temptation to hide from the source of your worries. If needed, write down your worries. Are they realistic? Generally, when we are suffering with anxiety we overestimate the likelihood that the worst case scenario will happen. We are usually underestimating our own abilities to cope. Use imagery to practice imagining how you would cope. Practicing to relax will also help in coping with anxiety. Try this progressive muscle relaxation at home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nZEdqcGVzo
2) Pre-existing or Past Depression
Current advice to remain at home and away from others has the potential to feed into depressive symptoms. Work and/or daily routines where we can feel a little challenged and somewhat successful each day are essential to fight depression. If you are left without these things now, it may be a high risk time for depression to grab a foothold.
Survival tip: Although your normal routine might be disrupted, you can still make small goals and plan your day in a way that will give the same benefits. Make a special effort to connect with friends, family or co-workers via text, phone, email or video calls. If needed, seek a counselor. Many are offering sessions via video or phone, including us at the Counseling Center of Cinco Ranch.
3) Alcohol or Substance Abuse
If you have been struggling with substance use in the past or not, you may be finding your alcohol or drug intake is increasing. Escaping feelings, numbing, calming and even trying to not be bored are all common reasons to drink or use drugs. Staying healthy and happy takes a plan.
Survival tip: Don’t go through it alone. Reach out to supportive people and talk about what you’ve been dealing with. Plan for success. Remove the temptation and find something else to put in it’s place. To find an Alcoholics Anonymous near you, https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/find-aa-resources
4) Risk of Abuse
For some people, being out of work or school means they will be at risk of abuse from a partner or family member. Heightened tensions that come with financial worries or other stressors also raise the risk level in some families. Abusers come from all walks of life. So if you feel you may be at risk, take action.
Survival tip: Phone 911 if you or someone else is in danger. Leave if possible, but if not, make a safety plan-how will you be best prepared to survive the next time your abuser attacks. Make a plan for how to escape and where to get help, if needed. For further advice call the Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit https://www.thehotline.org/help/
5) Family and Relationship Difficulties
Many are at home for long periods of time, which can mean facing relationship problems head on. Work and school often give relief from conflicts at home. Some issues might feel ignored or just simmering until recently. With social distancing from friends, family tensions might feel at an all time high. Past hurts and unresolved disagreements can bubble up.
Survival tip: Practice communicating – listening, as well as, talking. Therapy is available during this time, so getting professional input is a helpful option.
What can I do to protect my mental health during Covid-19 outbreak?
First, protect your physical health. Get enough sleep, but not too much. Eat a nutritious diet and take any medication your doctor has prescribed. Follow hygiene advice from the CDC and WHO https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
Second, for your mental well-being: Stay active and keep in contact with supportive networks and friends. Set small goals and make time to do them. Find a way to feel calm for at least a short time each day. Try to reconnect with things you enjoy, but have not had time to do.
If you are struggling during this time and feeling overwhelmed, you don’t have to struggle alone. We can all need some extra help from time to time, and that’s what therapy can provide. If your mood is becoming too much during the current Covid-19 outbreak, there is no need to wait for government advice to change before you can start feeling better. At the Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch, we are offering TeleHealth (secure video sessions) at a temporarily reduced price. To find out more, read about our therapists or book your session, click here.
Other services at the Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch
Our counseling services at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch include trauma counseling, couples counseling, family therapy, eating disorder treatment, counseling for young adults, counseling for teens, counseling for kids, depression treatment, anxiety treatment, and group counseling. Our therapists strive to regularly post blogs with helpful information on a variety of mental health topics. To learn more about our therapists and our counseling services, please reach out to the Center today!