Taking Care of Your Mental Health During Challenging Times

By now, you know what you should be doing to be safer and limit the spread of COVID-19. You’ve no doubt been inundated with messages about washing your hands for 20 seconds, social distancing and staying home if and when possible. That’s all great advice for taking care of your physical health, but what are you doing to take care of your mental health?

These are stressful times for everyone—healthy, sick, employed, unemployed, parents, children, friends, loved ones. The fact is, none of us has likely ever faced this type of situation, and it is helpful to remember that stress impacts everyone differently. You may feel a range of emotions—fear, uncertainty, worry, loneliness, boredom, anger, frustration—but remember that you are not alone.

Just as you’re taking precautions to keep your body healthy, consider the following ways to support your mental well-being to minimize your stress levels and maximize your ability to cope and thrive during this challenging time.

  • Understand Your Risk – While the constant stream of news and other communications may create a sense of fear and immediate danger, this is not the case for many people. Refer to unbiased and credible sources for information, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Avoid continuously monitoring television, radio or social media for updates as this can heighten anxiety and worry.
  • Connect with Others – At this time, many businesses have temporarily closed, and most people are practicing social distancing, isolation or self-quarantine. This sudden decrease in personal interaction with others can intensify feelings of loneliness and anxiety, so it’s important to maintain a connection with those you care about. It may not have been the norm for you before, but don’t hesitate to text, email or call your friends and loved ones frequently. Use FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts or other video calling solutions to talk to people “face-to-face”. Checking in on friends and family can help reassure you and them that no one is alone in all of this.
  • Find Ways to Relax Your Mind and Body – Experiment and try new activities to see what you find relaxing. Maybe take a walk in a park or hike in the woods. Try some of the thousands of free workouts available on online channels like YouTube, from yoga to Zumba®, and for all fitness levels. Pray or meditate. Keep a journal. Learn a new video game. Try a new recipe. Even take a nap – yes, it’s allowed and you shouldn’t feel bad about it!

Most importantly, recognize that this is a very unusual situation and it is OK to feel a wide variety of emotions. If you are experiencing symptoms of extreme stress—such as trouble sleeping, problems with eating too much or too little, inability to carry out routine daily activities, or using drugs or alcohol to cope—there are resources available to get you help.

SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline can connect you with someone who can help. Call 1-800-985-5990, text TalkWithUs to 66746, or visit www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov.