Just like the virus itself, emotional stress seems to be spreading alongside COVID-19. You may feel fatigued, have difficulty sleeping, or experience a loss of appetite. Or maybe it's just feeling "on edge" with everything that is going on. This is a completely normal human reaction, and there is no "right" way to respond in times of uncertainty.
Amanda McNab, LSCW, a clinical staff development educator at University of Utah Health, and Crisis and Diversion Services, provide some pointers to help manage our mental well-being during this stressful time.
Stay in Touch with Others
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Utah, the Utah Department of Health (DOH) has advised social distancing as a way of avoiding public interaction as much as possible. During this period of self-isolation, it might be hard to feel connected with friends, family, and resources.
But even during social distancing, it's important not to fully isolate yourself. Stay connected to your social support system—family, friends, your counselor. Try giving them a call; talking it out with people is a very healing medicine. Help them help you.
Remember to offer help to others as well. It's good to realize that those around you might also be undergoing stress. Help them in any way you can. We're all in this together, and helping others is a good way to take your mind off your own concerns and anxieties.
Take Care of Yourself
Exercise regularly to help burn away the stress chemicals in your body. Maintaining an active and productive schedule is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Now that the weather is starting to warm up, it's a perfect time to get back to outdoor activities. Even a walk around the block in the evenings can help.
Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet not only builds your immune system, it also improves your mental well-being. Incorporate some enjoyment into your routine, too. You can relax with a nice book or that Netflix series you've been meaning to watch.
Slow Down and Breathe
Stay informed about the facts from credible sources such as the University of Utah Health or the state of Utah. You can call their health resource line, 1-888-222-2542, or the COVID-19 Information line at 1-800-456-7707.
If you find that your anxiety increases every time you watch the news or look at social media, you may want to limit your exposure. "It's best to stay away from 'what if' thinking," McNab says, "and to focus on what is in your control, such as practicing universal precautions."
Mental Health Resources
If you need any assistance with emotional support and encouragement, we have a free community crisis response program at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, or HMHI (formerly University Neuropsychiatric Institute/UNI).
HMHI has certified peer specialists who are available by phone at 801-587-1055 to offer support to you and foster a sense of hope in a time of concern. In addition, if you are experiencing any behavioral health crisis, you can call our hotline at 801-587-3000.
It's a time for us to recognize that health is of paramount importance to ourselves and our community right now. And that includes our mental health. Remember, there is always help around the corner.