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Mental Health in the Time of COVID-19

These are unprecedented times.   As the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the world, we have collectively entered into a time of crisis.  Understandably, reactions such as fear, worry, anger, and hopelessness will be  common.  And the mandated social isolation absolutely necessary to ‘flatten the curve’  can in itself be associated with poor mental health, including increased risk for depression, anxiety and substance use.

While levels of distress will surely increase both directly from fear of or actual contamination with COVID-19,  or indirectly from the global financial and social fallout of COVID-19, there are ways in which you can mitigate these negative effects on your mental health.

The first is to recognize the importance of social connection.   We are indeed social creatures and there’s an abundance of scientific evidence that shows that social connection can protect you against a myriad of problems such as depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and insomnia to name a few.  Creativity during this time of  mass social isolation and creating a new social  normal is key.  Downloading apps such as ‘House Party’, using FaceTime, connecting with others on FaceBook, Skype  or other forms of social media are great ways to keep connected with others and help mitigate the effects of increased stress.  There are great examples of people offering free Yoga courses online, free concerts, continuing virtual Taekwondoe lessons, and  virtual book club meetings – get out there and find virtual ways to connect.

Another important way to maintain your mental health is to recognize and change your negative way of thinking.  While it’s normal to feel distressed during these uncertain times, recognize thought patterns that will only serve to increase levels of anxiety and depression, including catastrophizing, overestimating the probability, or negative filtering.  You can take action and limit worry by spending less time watching or listening to the news, and more time focusing on activities that bring you a sense of pleasure or accomplishment.   Focus on what you can control (diet, sleep, exercise, practicing social distancing, washing your hands), and less on what you cannot.  Remind yourself that we are part of something larger, and practice a mindset of gratitude and acceptance.  Catch yourself if you are ruminating and imagining all possible negative outcomes, and imagine yourself coping effectively.

And if you feel that your levels of anxiety or depression are too overwhelming, reach out to a mental health professional.  Remember we are here for you and can offer virtual therapy.

Keep safe & healthy,

Dr. McBride