How COVID-19 Is Affecting Mental Health | Highland Springs
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Posted on: April 15, 2020 | Dr. Todd Thatcher

The coronavirus affecting mental health wellbeing.

From time to time, life brings us new challenges where we have to adapt to a new way of living. The COVID-19 virus is no exemption to that new challenge in our society. This pandemic gives us a new way to think about what it means to stay safe and healthy in our day to day endeavors. While each of us has experienced varying types of crises in our lives, a global pandemic of this type is new to all of us. We’re facing a viral epidemic that our world hasn’t seen in many generations; this is unchartered territory that brings a great deal of fear and anxiety along with it. For people who may already struggle with mental health needs, this may be a particularly challenging time. Now, more than ever, we need to pay attention to our thoughts, feelings and behaviors and have compassion for ourselves and others.

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Warning Signs Of Emotional Fatigue

The steady news of increasing illness around the world, combined with the isolation of social distancing can lead to emotional fatigue. The signs of emotional exhaustion and fatigue can vary from person to person.

  • Shorter fuse: If you notice yourself feeling less tolerant lately and your irritability is creeping up, it may be a sign that you are emotionally exhausted. Unpredictability in the outside world can set our nerves on edge and this can result in irritability.
  • Lack of energy: While it may seem like social isolation and being at home would give people energy to attend to tasks, sometimes just the opposite can be true. Stress is exhausting, physically and mentally. Be gentle with yourself and try not to judge your lack of energy, these are trying times. Try to rest when you are tired, eat nourishing meals and use healthy distractions to get your mind off the pandemic.
  • Feeling depressed: Sadness and depression is a perfectly reasonable response to this unusual situation. If you notice yourself sliding into a severe depression and have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please don’t sit with those thoughts alone. Reach out to a suicide hotline or helpline to talk it out; talk to a loved one, contact a specialist at Highland Springs. And remember, this is going to pass; you will feel better in the future and this viral chaos will end. If you’d rather text than talk, there is a specific text line (741741) devoted to people experiencing stress related to coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • High anxiety: Experiencing some degree of anxiety as a result of the pandemic is almost a given. In some ways, anxiety is a protective factor at a time like this as it causes us to pause and make healthier decisions about staying safe. Anxiety can prompt us to engage in protective behaviors such as thorough handwashing, hand sanitizer and masking as needed, and choosing to follow the social distancing guidelines that have been recommended. Remember, anxiety is not the enemy; it serves a purpose. It’s important to continue with vigilance to stay safe but keep your perspective and use healthy coping skills to keep your anxiety levels manageable. 

Self-care Resources For Relaxation During COVID-19

There are many useful relaxation techniques we can use during times of high stress and anxiety. Some simple and effective breathing techniques send signals to your body that promote relaxation, even if you’re not feeling relaxed mentally or emotionally. Square breathing, 4-7-8 breathing and many other types of calming respiration work in reverse to promote relaxation. These techniques calm the physical aspects of anxiety, which in turn helps transition both the mind and body into a relaxed state.

Meditation is a proven method of reducing stress and increasing one’s sense of wellness. There are a plethora of free guided meditations online. You don’t need to be an expert to meditate, just simply focusing on breathing for 30 seconds is a good place to start. The practice of meditation becomes easier the more it is used.

Activities of mindfulness can be helpful to reduce stress. Generally, any repetitive, relaxing and healthy activity that allows your mind to de-stress will do. Artistic outlets such as drawing, coloring or painting can be helpful (you don’t need to be an artist). Other activities that can be done mindfully are exercising, washing dishes, singing, sewing, eating or looking at artwork. Mindfulness is paying attention to one’s mind and body in the moment, so it is possible to use mindfulness in countless ways.

Resources For Support And Emotional Wellness

We’re all in this together. More than ever we need to use our existing resources to support one another and to stay healthy, physically and emotionally. Because of our social distancing guidelines, online resources are more vital than ever. Many free resources are available to help manage stress and depressive symptoms. A particularly helpful resource is called MEGA, which offers over 40 mental health resources for free. MEGA’s resources include books, worksheets, workbooks and guides to help with stress, anxiety, substance abuse, depression and many other needs.

Online support groups are a great resource to help reduce isolation and maintain connection to peers. Mental Health America compiled a massive list of support groups, most of which have online presence for additional support when face-to-face support is limited. Additionally, establishing a support system is a great resource for coping with the COVID- 19 news, panic, and isolation. This can be as easy as a group text message, sharing a meal together remotely, FaceTiming, and sharing even the small moments. Spending time with friends and family, either virtually or in the home, have great benefits to helping your mental health. 

People in recovery may be particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation from key supports such as sponsors and recovery groups may increase urges to use substances. Often during times of difficulty we resort to old ways of coping, and for people who are trying to stay sober, this can feel like a risky time. Thankfully, online AA and other substance abuse recovery meetings are becoming widely available. SAMHSA also offers a substance abuse treatment locator service on their website in addition to Highland Springs offering Telehealth as a resource for those in mental health and social need

Highland Springs continues to offer crucial support services and is proud to do so in this time of need. While we may be doing things a little differently than usual given the COVID-19 status, our commitment to serving clients has not faltered. Highland Springs offers family counseling, substance abuse treatment and therapy services to communities throughout Salt Lake County, Tooele County, and Boise, Idaho. We are currently offering Highland Springs’ Telehealth which gives us the ability to provide virtual conferencing between a therapist and a patient that is in need of assistance, treatment, or care. Our staff are highly trained, compassionate professionals, invested in your wellness.

How Telehealth Can Assist you

Use of telehealth is a growing practice, especially during the pandemic. Telehealth allows doctors, therapists and other practitioners to hold appointments with clients through an online video feature. This service is crucial at a time like this, when in-person visits aren’t always possible. Telehealth allows you and your provider to see and hear one another without leaving your home. Highland Springs telehealth services can help you access the support you need during this challenging time. Most insurance plans cover telehealth just as they would an in-office visit.

Stress And Coping for Parents During COVID-19

Coronavirus has also changed the landscape of education for the time being. Schools and daycares across the country are closed to prevent the spread of the virus, resulting in children being home with parents and requiring in-home instruction. Parents who are able to work at home are now juggling these obligations as well as tending to their children’s educational needs. This is a perfect recipe for stress for many overworked parents. The CDC offers suggestions for coping with stress and anxiety specific to the limitations caused by COVID-19.

It is important that everyone (including parents) participate in their own emotional self-care to avoid becoming overwhelmed and burned out. Parents and caregivers need to remember that perfection is unnecessary; do the best you can and most importantly, take care of your emotional health.

Dealing with anxiety and depression in times of crisis

Anxiety and depression are common challenges as we face this pandemic. The unknown elements of a situation like this are daunting. Pay attention to feelings of anxiety and depression and during particularly difficult times, remind yourself to stay grounded in the moment, as it is easy to get swept away in worrisome thoughts and feelings of dread. There are many helpful articles about dealing with anxiety and depression as we face Coronavirus. As we manage daily life in these trying times, relying on one another’s advice and wisdom is helpful, as we all have something to offer one another. It may also help establish a sense of meaning and purpose if you consider ways you can reach out to others to offer support, either through a quick text message, a phone call or an online chat. Connection is important. Checking in with someone every day can make a huge difference in their wellness and your own.

OCD And COVID-19

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-based condition that causes obsessive thought patterns and compulsive behaviors that are ritualized as a method of reducing distress. OCD is a challenging disorder to manage, particularly in times like this when there is a lot of anxiety and unknown factors in our daily lives. People with OCD may find the anxiety of COVID-19 even more distressing than most and this may mean greater disruption in daily life. For those managing OCD, resources are available to help support you during this pandemic. There is no need to sit with this additional stress and anxiety alone; support is available.

ADHD And COVID-19

People with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may be noticing an increased challenge with managing attention span while working at home. Working with the additional distractions of kids, spouses and pets can be a productivity nightmare for people who already have difficulties with attention deficit. In addition to these challenges, people with ADHD sometimes forget to attend to tasks such washing hands or remembering to wash fruits and vegetables prior to consuming. These behaviors are now quite risky, given how easily COVID-19 is transmitted. For people dealing with inattention as a result of ADHD, hanging up reminders for hygiene may be a good idea to keep families safe from the virus. In terms of difficulty focusing, the use of noise-blocking headphones or white-noise machines can help minimize background sounds. Scheduling routine blocks of time for moving and stretching can also be useful for retaining focus during the workday. Using fidget objects can also help expend energy while working and can aid in focus during mental tasks.

COVID-19 Resources

Education is key to the prevention of this virus. The more we can learn about COVID-19, the better prepared we are to avoid behaviors that increase the likelihood of contracting it.

What Do We Know About The Coronavirus?

As you continue to learn more about the virus, watching informational videos can be a quick way to digest the facts. Be sure that the sources of your information are reputable. One video we recommend to learn more about the virus is ‘What Is COVID-19?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the leading source of information about the virus. The CDC website has the latest statistics of the illness as it impacts the nation as well as the most up-to-date facts. It is especially vital to reduce the spread of COVID-19 Myths. Misinformation about the virus causes people to take unnecessary risks and increase their chances of being infected. It is important to use reputable, science-based resources. If you’re unsure of the source of information and whether it is fact-based, don’t share it with others and don’t trust that it is accurate.

How to get tested for COVID-19 in Utah:

If you are in Utah and experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or have been exposed to the virus (even if you are currently asymptomatic) there are many sites available in which you can have a test completed while remaining in your vehicle. Utah residents can also call the Utah COVID-19 Info Hotline at 1-800-456-7707 to ask questions or get support. There is also a general COVID-19 Hotline at 801-587-0712. Don’t hesitate to use these hotlines to ask questions about the virus, particularly if you are concerned that you or a loved one has had exposure to Coronavirus.

Care for COVID-19 at home:

Proper care of others with COVID-19 at home involves isolating from other loved ones and managing symptoms. If symptoms increase to the level of problems breathing, increased confusion or bluish-lips, consult your doctor by phone or call your local Emergency Room for advice, as it may be time to access additional medical care at a local facility. 

If you are caring for yourself at home with COVID-19, be sure to closely monitor your symptoms, including checking your temperature, maintaining hydration and avoiding others. Stay at home and in one room if possible, to avoid infecting others. Frequently wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm, soapy water, being sure to clean all areas of your hands including under fingernails. Call your physician or local hospital if you feel your symptoms are worsening to find out what next steps you should take to care for yourself.

General COVID-19 Information

It is important that we stay up-to-date on the most recent events relating to COVID-19. The most reputable local site is Utah COVID-19 Updates, and the best national and world-wide sites are CDC COVID-19 Updates and World Health Organization COVID-19 Updates. You can learn more about preventative care on Highland Springs’ COVID-19 updates page. While it is important to stay up-to-date, also remember to take a break from virus related news a few hours each day to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Strive to find a balance between staying informed and maintaining your individual mental wellness.

County COVID-19 Resources

Utah residents have many valuable resources available. Below is a list of resources for each county, with phone numbers and website links to access to help get your needs met. 

Salt Lake County Resources

Weber & Morgan County Resources

Davis County Resources

Utah County Resources

COVID-19 Mental Health Resources

Highland Springs Clinic is committed to helping you and your family during COVID-19 and in the aftermath of the pandemic. Feel free to reach out during this challenging time to learn more about the services we offer. You are not alone. We are all in this together. Let us help by reaching out for support today.

 

 

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