Taking Care of Your Mental Health During The Coronavirus Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic is a global health emergency. The virus has reached every continent except Antarctica. About 20% of the global population is under lockdown. Some international borders have been completely closed. Hospitalizations and fatalities are quickly accelerating. More than 21,177 infected people have died, with more casualties every day. The coronavirus is not just negatively affecting physical health. The pandemic is wreaking havoc on people’s mental health.
42.6% of Chinese citizens reported anxiety related to the coronavirus outbreak. With so much change and uncertainty, people are justifiably stressed. Social isolation is a traumatic experience for anyone. Coupled with the risk of serious health complications and even death, the coronavirus pandemic is a recipe for mental health flare-ups. We cannot control the pandemic but we can control utilizing healthy coping mechanisms and mental health advice.
If you have mental health issues, it’s important that you have health insurance so you can manage your treatment plan. Enroll in a health plan if you have not done so. Open Enrollment periods have opened up in many states.
Why Are We Worried?
The most common coronavirus worries include:
- Infection of self or loved ones
- Negative financial impact on investments including retirement and college funds
- Loss of income due to job loss or hour reductions
- Inability to afford coronavirus testing or treatment if needed
- Increased risk of exposure when leaving the house for errands or work
These worries are not irrational. More than half of Americans are at risk of being unemployed or underemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic. People are losing their health insurance, financial security and access to basic supplies like toilet paper and water. Over 54 million students have been sent home from K-12 schools across the country, and 45 out of 50 states have closed all schools. Businesses and schools are unsure when they will be able to open their doors again. We cannot control the pandemic but we can control efforts to improve our mental health.
Get creative finding ways to keep your support system close and stay mindful of media consumption. If you are stuck at home, schedule virtual dates with your partner or hangouts with your friends. Send someone a letter or card just because. Call or text your friends and family when you are feeling stressed and be honest about your emotions. Take regular breaks from social media and unfollow or mute accounts that negatively affect your mood. Choose to mute overwhelming WhatsApp groups, Facebook posts and triggering keywords on Twitter.
Take Care Of Your Body
There is a strong correlation between mental health and physical health. People with physical health problems are more likely to have mental health problems. Likewise, people with mental health problems are more likely to develop certain physical health problems. There is good news. By taking care of your physical health during this pandemic, you are also directly taking care of your mental health and vice versa!
Meditation helps reduce blood pressure and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Meditation is also a very pandemic friendly coping mechanism. You can meditate from the comfort of your home at any time. Meditating can help you with breathing techniques. Take deep, calming breaths often throughout this pandemic.
Regular exercise helps maintain fitness and mood. Gyms are closed across the country but some are offering online workout classes. Take a walk around your block or jump rope, unless you’ve been told by doctors not to exercise. Remember to always practice social distancing while exercising.Eating well and sleeping regularly will help strengthen your immunity and boost your mood. Avoid alcohol and drug use as they impair your ability to get quality sleep. Creating and keeping a routine that incorporates healthy habits will soothe both your body and mind.
Know The Facts
Knowing the facts about the coronavirus can help decrease your stress. Schedule a specific and limited time to check in with the news. Seek information from trusted sources in order to take practical and productive safety measures. It is important to stay mindful of your mental health triggers when seeking out information.
If the news severely triggers you, consider asking a friend or loved one to give you updates on what information is relevant to you. Regardless of how you receive the information, knowing the symptoms, preventative measures and treatment for coronavirus can greatly decrease anxiety.
Who Is At Risk for Mental Health Issues During The Pandemic?
Just like the coronavirus itself, everyone is at risk for negative health consequences during the pandemic. There are various demographics who may respond more strongly to the stress of the pandemic, including:
- First responders and health care workers who are actively combatting the pandemic
- Children and teens
- People with mental health conditions
- People who are in a domestically abusive or toxic home setting
- People who are at a higher risk of developing serious symptoms and dying from the coronavirus (seniors, people with serious chronic medical conditions)
- People who are infected, quarantined or self-isolating
Remember that social isolation is a traumatic experience that negatively affects mental health. Quarantined people often feel out of control of their situation, less autonomous and less competent. These feelings manifest as sleep problems, poor concentration, trauma and depression. Quarantined persons may feel disconnected from their support system, which is why it is even more important to intentionally keep connected.
For people with preexisting mental illness, it is essential that you continue your treatment plan during the pandemic. If you have mental health providers, ask about teletherapy or online mental health services to keep up with appointments. If you are worried about medication access, request a 90-day supply. If you cannot receive a larger supply of your medications, refill them at the earliest date possible. Continue to self-care, practice healthy coping mechanisms and pay attention to new or worsening symptoms.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a dedicated informational packet for coronavirus related mental health issues, including:
- Coronavirus related anxiety
- Tips for isolation/quarantine
- Resources for uninsured people
- Grief from coronavirus deaths
- Supporting mentally ill people you care about
NOTE- If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call 911. For non-emergency support, visit NAMI for a list of HelpLine numbers.
Practicing gratitude may be particularly hard when facing job loss or illness. Try writing down just five things you are grateful for every day. You may notice a drastic positive change in your mood. When possible, try to positively reframe the situation. Maybe instead of being “stuck at home,” the pandemic can be reframed as an opportunity to spend more time with your family.
Positively reframing the situation might help you use the extra time you have now more productively. Check off items from your to-do list or start a new project. Take advantage of more time spent in nature and sunlight, even just from your balcony or porch.
What if I Don’t Have Health Insurance?
Many states have opened up the open enrollment period. Even if your state has not, you can enroll in a health plan if you lost your job or your hours have been cut as a result of the pandemic. If you’re pregnant, you can also enroll in a health plan outside the open enrollment period.
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By ensuring physical and emotional safety, creating routines and stability, and implementing healthy coping mechanisms, you can support your child to the best of your ability during the coronavirus pandemic.
Under U.S. law due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), if your parents’ insurance plan covers dependents, you can stay on or be added to your parents’ insurance during Open Enrollment up until your 26th birthday.
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It’s always a good idea to get acquainted with the way plans are set up and what you’re responsible to pay before open enrollment which takes place in late fall. If you have a qualifying event, like a new job or if you’ve moved, had a baby, gotten divorced or had any life change that affect your coverage, you may be able to buy a new health insurance plan today.
Like auto and homeowners insurance healthcare insurance also has a deductible which needs to be paid before insurance begins to cover expenses. However, healthcare deductibles work a little differently. For instance, your healthcare insurance will pay for some services even before you meet your deductible.
You may be shopping for health insurance because you got a new job, which doesn’t offer health insurance. Some people even prefer to have a health plan separate from their jobs. It’s usually a more expensive option to buy an individual health insurance policy when an employer offers to pay a portion of your premiums each month. However, some people prefer to choose their own insurance company and a plan that fits their needs.