Hi everyone, this Dr. Vipul Shah, clinical director at Pack Health. I’m back again for our weekly update on COVID-19. The last week has been a difficult one, as we continue to realize the effects that COVID-19 is having on all aspects of our lives, and we see just how widespread the virus is now. We wanted to let all of you know that Pack Health is here to help you navigate this uncertain time and to point you in the right direction for reliable information. 

This week, we’re going to focus on some of the worrisome effects that social isolation and increased stress may be having on your mental health. We’ll also discuss some resources you can use if you are developing these signs, and some tips that may help you cope. Of course, if you have any serious thoughts of hurting yourself or others, seek immediate help by calling 911 or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. 

First, a couple of COVID-19 updates. 

If you live in an area where there are a lot of people with the coronavirus, the new CDC recommendation is to wear a cloth mask or a homemade mask in public. Remember, a cloth mask will not sufficiently protect you from getting the virus, so you should still stay at least 6 feet away from others. See PackHealth.com for some ideas about masks, and how you can make your own at home. 

Now on to our main topic for this week, mental health during this period of social distancing.

Major disruptions in our routines and times of extreme uncertainty can contribute to stress and anxiety. We’re all dealing with uncertainty right now, so if you feel this way, know that you’re not alone. 

If you take medication for a mental health condition, make sure you take it as prescribed and that you have enough on hand. Also, be aware that your regular healthcare providers may ask you to meet with them in different ways, like over the internet or by phone. Consider developing a safety plan in case you can’t get in touch with them or have limited access. 

Even if you don’t have a chronic mental health condition, the coronavirus and its effects on society can be a source of stress that can lead to poor sleep, difficulty concentrating, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Some signs of stress and anxiety include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in eating patterns (overeating or undereating)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worsening of existing health conditions
  • Increased alcohol or tobacco use

Remember that some stress is normal, especially during unprecedented times like this, but if you start to exhibit any of these signs, it may be worth trying some new strategies to help cope. Here are a few. 

  1. Give yourself a break from the news and social media. 
  2. Stay connected to friends and family: make a schedule for a regular check-in; and be aware of new opportunities to connect virtually with the networks you would normally lean on, such as churches or community groups.
  3. Take time for your hobbies.
  4. Consider meditation, mindfulness or yoga to focus on the present. Ask your Health Advisor for some resources if you haven’t tried these before.
  5. Take time to focus on your chronic health conditions and improve your physical health.
  6. Exercise, even if it is just for a short time. We have plenty to help you get started here.
  7. Limit alcohol, tobacco or caffeine intake. 
  8. Be sure to get a good night’s rest..

Click here for a list of resources to help you or a loved one who may be experiencing additional stress or anxiety during this time. Your Health Advisor can help you find what you need. 

Now, as always, we are here to help. We’ll see you next week!