Any major world event that has a significant negative impact can increase our levels of stress and anxiety. However, a pandemic like the one we see now can lead to feelings of despair and depression. The coronavirus pandemic has shut down much of the world as we know it, and Americans have been called to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus.
This particular pandemic may affect your mental health in two ways. The fear of getting sick can cause stress, and social isolation could lead to depression. Though social distancing makes many problems even more inconvenient, there are ways to address these issues and maintain your mental health.
The fear that you or someone you care about might get sick can significantly increase the stress you deal with daily. Stress can also lead to other complications, such as changes in your sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, and the worsening of existing physical or mental issues. If you struggle with a mood disorder like depression, unchecked stress can cause a relapse of symptoms.
When it comes to managing stress during the virus, there are a few tips that may help limit anxiety. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has outlined a few tips to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder avoid relapse, but the advice may be helpful for anyone managing stress.
The VA recommends increasing your sense of safety to help reduce anxiety. To do this, follow the prevailing medical advice when it comes to avoiding the virus. Take steps like:
It’s helpful to remain informed but not to obsess over each new story about the virus. Make sure you know the current health and safety advice and stay up to date with social distancing procedures. At the same time, there’s no need to watch the news all day long. Maintaining a schedule and staying productive can help you keep your perspective on daily tasks.
Mental Health in Isolation
Though quarantine is one of the best ways the average person can help slow the spread of the virus, it can also cause some people to experience stress and depression. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that each person reacts to stress and isolation differently. While some people thrive on their own, others are most comfortable around others.
Isolation can be damaging to a person’s mental health, especially if you’re struggling with depression. Loneliness was a problem in the U.S. before the virus began to spread. According to a 2018 Cigna survey, nearly half of the 20,000 people surveyed said they feel alone sometimes or all of the time. However, social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.
The VA recommends staying connected to loved ones and your support system however you can. Speak on the phone, video call, play games remotely, and reach out in whatever way you can. If you’re stressed, talk about it with a loved one. If you feel depressed or isolated, many therapists are offering online sessions that can help you get a professional perspective.