What you can do about mental health during the pandemic
Grace Gillespie, Staff Writer
Isolation and social distancing have slowed the spread of COVID-19; however, the implementation of these steps can cause harm to one’s mental health. Factors such as, isolation, not working, fear of getting sick, an unstable economy, and uncertainty about how long this will last can create anxiety and stress. Watching the news to stay informed about the ongoing situation is important, but the news emphasizes the spread of illness, number of people infected, and the increasing death toll, and very little about how the situation is improving. Being reminded repeatedly can be unsettling. Overall, the news media does not alleviate these fears– for some, it enhances them.
People with mental illness are affected harshly during this pandemic. Those living with anxiety tend to be unable to control their worries and end up catastrophizing situations. This results in people panic buying – picking up more goods than they need because of fear they will not be able to purchase these items later, as well as compulsively scrolling through news and social media to find information about what they are catastrophizing.
Those with clinical depression can find themselves spiraling without outside influences to assist them. The empty food shelves from the pandemic can strike fear in those to stock up on food and binge, while others might find themselves fasting beyond reason because of the situation.
People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) have different obsessions and compulsions, but for those whose issues revolve around germs and cleanliness the thought of a highly contagious virus can be almost debilitating. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hand washing and home sanitizing, those suffering from OCD often take this to extremes. They may wash their hands in scalding hot water excessively, which causes their skin to dry out and bleed.
Although there is no clear-cut or easy way to fix the problems that those with mental illness struggle with, each individual is unique and copes in different ways. It is crucial to initiate helpful methods that have previously worked to eliminate stress and worries. Creating a daily routine can help keep some structure. Finding ways to exercise around the house, or taking a walk in the neighborhood has proven to be effective for reducing stress. Those struggling with mental illness should try new things with the extra time they have.
For those needing ways to interact with people, there’s always texting, calling and video chatting. Programs such as Talkspace and Betterhelp let people talk to licensed counselors from the convenience of their own home at any time. Another possible outlet for dealing with stress is National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. The number for the NAMI helpline is 1-800-950-NAMI. The helpline is free, and open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. eastern time for those needing to talk without shame or judgement about their current struggles.