Collectively, our community is going through very traumatic, uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of us have not yet acclimated to the amount of isolation required to help stop the spread, or are becoming overwhelmed by the thought of continuing to social distance.
The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can be highly contagious. The virus that causes COVID-19 was found after an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.
While physicians and researchers study the virus and how COVID-19 affects people, there is currently no vaccine or treatment. Efforts for a vaccine and research for treatments are ongoing, with clinical trials occurring locally, across the nation and internationally.
To help protect one another, we’re living in a world of social distancing, which includes not physically seeing friends or family members you don’t live with and staying home as much as physically possible.
For individuals that struggle with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and addiction, this can be an extremely daunting task as constructive outlets people relied on before may not available to them. Even those not previously experiencing depression or anxiety can begin to during this time. It’s important to regularly assess yourself and become aware if you are experiencing any sudden mood changes.
"Many of us are dealing with shifting routines, so it’s a good time to focus on prioritizing the things that have always helped you cope in stressful situations," says Annemarie Mikowski, DO, a psychiatrist with UBMD Psychiatry. "If your gym is closed, can you connect with virtual classes, try new home exercises, get outside for a hike? Modifying existing habits, like attending a virtual AA meeting instead of an in-person group, will work if you embrace things as a change rather than disruption."
Mikowski continues that "if you have a preexisting condition, now is also a good time to reach out to your therapist or physician. Many offices, including UBMD Psychiatry, have converted to telehealth platforms making it very convenient to schedule time to check-in. Mental health professionals are great resources to help you maintain your emotional well-being."
While staying at home, you can implement small strategies to help ensure you continue to care for yourself and your mental health. Some of these can look like:
Finding and sticking to a routine while at home can also help you keep productive and positive during this trying time. Just because you are home does not mean that you have lost your ability to connect with others. Pick up your phone and call a friend or family member to share thoughts and feelings, use your webcam to facetime with people whom you care for, or even stay updated with those you’re close to through social media platforms. Be careful though – too much time on social media could hurt more than it helps.
"It’s always important to spend time doing things that you value," says Mikowski, who is also a clinical assistant professor at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "Just becoming more aware of how you feel when using social media can help. Do you notice feeling irritated by what you read? Overwhelmed? Are your muscles tense? Are you just feeling exhausted when you finally turn off your phone?"
"New phones by Apple and Google help you monitor trends. Apps like Moment can go a step further to help you monitor how much time you spend on your social media apps. This may help you evaluate if the time is something you’d like to continue, or perhaps there is something else you’d like to do with your time."
Be as creative as you want to: interact virtually, play a game together, video chat while eating dinner together, the list goes on!
"We are lucky that technology helps us stay connected when we are thoughtful about how and when we access it," says Mikowski. "'Social distancing’ should really mean ‘physically distancing’ because social interactions are important and something we need to prioritize. The quality and quantity of social relationships have a meaningful impact on our emotional and physical health, and this is important now more than ever."
For additional resources to help during this time, click here.
Please consult your medical provider for more information.