As a Clinical Psychologist many people are asking me about mental health issues and coping suggestions during this corona virus crisis. I hope these thoughts and suggestions help.
The general public is understandably stressed. As fear, isolation, uncertainty, and alarm are increasing, harmful psychological patterns emerge. As tensions run high people may be prone to conflict. Avoid confrontations on social media. Do not participate in expressions of anger, blaming, or circulating conspiracy propaganda. This will only make YOU feel worse.
Do not argue with family members during this stressful period. Now is not the time for domestic disputes. We need to be tolerant and supportive as families. People with mood disorders especially PTSD, anxiety, depression, and bipolar are vulnerable to decompensation and will need extra encouragement. Reach out to family members with mental illness or drug additions.
Do not compulsively eat to suppress emotions. Start and maintain a healthy eating routine with portion control. Talk to children. We must be vigilant not to transfer our own fears and uncertainties onto our kids. Emphasize healthy lifestyle choices, optimism, and safety. Adults need to remain calm, rational and positive.
Beware of psychosomatic illness. When people are under stress they are often hyper sensitive to the slightest headache, muscle tension, or discomfort. These are common biological responses to stress and often subside. Many mental health professionals are using telehealth (electronic means such as phone, video chat, etc.) to counsel people, so do a google search and reach out if you experience grief, panic, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, anger, or insomnia.
Limit exposure to negative and alarming people who speculate, guess, forecast, and give their unqualified opinion about the coronavirus. Refer to credible sources of information such as the CDC or local government web-sites. People should keep minds busy and bodies active. Limit exposure to news media.
We have a tendency to hyper focus on threats as a survival mechanism, which is causing people to continuously watch the news and on-line media sources. People need to make a conscious effort to disengage from the barrage of scary images. Watch a lighthearted movie, exercise, play a game, read a book, or work on a hobby to give your mind a break.
Avoid alcohol, drugs, and risky behaviors that could cause a need for emergency services. It’s important for people to think about responding to outbreak much like a chess game that requires thoughtful, methodical, planned moves, rather than a UFC fight with emotional reactive short sighted exchanges. Everyone should remain optimistic and hopefully we will be through this shortly.
Dr. Dustan Barabas