LA VERNE, Calif.–Have you been feeling depressed, anxious, or even stressed during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?
Needless to say, you are not alone. Many Americans are currently suffering from negative mental health conditions.
“One in five Americans have a mental health condition,” according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.
During a pandemic, a lot of changes have probably occurred in your life. The mandatory stay-at-home orders have adjusted daily routines, work-life, social life, sleeping patterns, and eating habits. Some people may have a more difficult time adjusting to all of these changes.
“People are operating in a whole new way with little notice and with no end in sight,” University of La Verne psychology professor Nadine Nakamura told Scriberr News. “With no end in sight, it is hard for people to adjust to.”
In addition to the change, there are new stressors people are facing. Many may be worried about the health of their loved ones, or their financial situations. The U.S unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent in March, a staggering increase from 3.5 percent reported in December.
With these subsequent changes at bay, many are feeling overwhelmed, causing them to feel depressed, stressed, or anxious.
“This is such a unique historical event, that this is affecting so many people at the same time,” Nakamura said. “So many people have a collective experience, but they are also separated.”
Now, the question is: how do we cope with all of these changes?
On April 7, California Gov. Gavin Newsom made comments about the importance of maintaining good mental health during this time.
“Staying at home does not mean you are alone,” Newsom said in a press conference.
Newsom assigned Dr. Burke Harris, California’s Surgeon General, to lead efforts in a statewide campaign to address the mental health impact of COVID-19.
On April 7, Harris released new stress management playbooks for individuals, caregivers, and kids. The state also published a consolidated page of helplines and resources for those experiencing mental health issues or abusive behaviors from others.
Harris also held a Q&A session on Twitter for Californians to ask her questions about mental health.
One of the questions that came through from a user was: “I will be honest, every day feels like some sort of nightmare that I can’t wake up from. I am resolved to meet the moment & I have been trying to ground to positivity & hope. I miss my peers and life. But what else can we do to better cope?”
“It is normal to be feeling grief right now, and it is scary,” Burke answered. “Take it one day at a time and reach out to someone you trust to talk about your fears and concerns.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides several tips for those suffering with mental health issues.
- Taking breaks from the news or social media, continually hearing about the pandemic, can be upsetting.
- Taking care of your body: includes exercising, meditating, stretching, eat healthily, avoiding alcohol, avoiding drugs, and getting plenty of sleep.
- Make time to unwind and do enjoyable activities
- Connect with others
Although the pandemic has disrupted normalcy, most people will learn to adapt to their situation while others may need to find extra help. It’s easier for people to adapt when they have the resources to do so.
An individual who can afford to put food on the table and watch Netflix may have an easier time adapting compared to someone who has lost their job, Nakamura explained.
“People are going to be able to adapt, there is always an adaptation period, but everyone is so different, so you cannot generalize,” psychologist at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles County, Virginia Delgado told Scriberr News.
Delgado uses cognitive-behavioral psychology when treating inmates at the correctional facility. This method challenges negative thoughts and individual’s patterns of thinking.
One way of doing this is shifting from the mindset of “I am going to contract the virus, I am going to get sick, and I am going to get my family sick,” to “we need to challenge that by thinking I am staying home, and my family is staying home, trying to challenge these thoughts to help you understand that you are safe,” said Delgado.
Those who are struggling can find additional resources online to help them thrive throughout this pandemic. The National Alliance on Mental Illness published an informational guide. The guide answers questions such as:
“I’m working from home and feel disconnected from my routines. What can I do?
A structure can help us feel more stable. When your work routine changes, it may help to create other routines that mirror what you’d usually do. Having rituals and routines in the morning can be a good way to start your day. Try activities that are healthy for your body and mind, like a walk (if you can), exercise, meditation, journaling, and eating breakfast.”
“I feel isolated and lonely. How can I find connection while quarantine or at home?
Being quarantined or isolated is difficult. While you may not have in-person access to support groups, mental health providers, and other support systems, there are online resources that can help.”
It is essential to be kind to yourself, Nakamura explained.
“A lot of it is figuring out what you need, I don’t think there is necessarily a one size fits all solution to deal with what we are going through,” Nakamura said. “Anything you can do to take care of yourself right now is important; being in this environment with so much uncertainty creates a lot of stress. Permitting yourself [to recognize]that there is nothing wrong with you because you are struggling right now.”