Managing your mental health during a pandemic


While the COVID-19 pandemic is an event people all over the world are going through, everyone is going through it differently. Some are out of work, some are working from home, and some are essential workers. Some may have several close loved ones who have been affected and some may not know anyone who has been affected. No matter your situation, there is a degree of worry or stress that accompanies an event like this pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear about your health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

The most important thing to remem- ber is taking steps to manage stress, worry, and anxiety. New York’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness is seeing an uptick in calls and people reaching out for mental health resources. That response, though, is a normal human reaction to trauma and extraordinary circumstances.

“Everyone has a heightened sense of anxiety in some way,” said Matthew Shapiro, associate director of public affairs at NAMI-NYS.

Shapiro added that it has been helpful to have mental health included in the conversation about dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. New York State has a free help line (844-863-9314) that connects residents with a mental health counselor. The state has also partnered with the Crisis Text Line organization, where health care workers can text NYFRONTLINE to 741-741 to access emotional support services around the clock.

An important tip to remember, Shapiro said, is to recognize and feel the feelings you may be having, such as worry, depression, and even excitement about reopening for summer. He added that this situation is taking us through a form of grief—losing a sense of normalcy in life—and just like other types of grief, there are stages that need to be observed in order to heal.

“Don’t ignore these feelings,” Shapiro said.

He also wanted people to know that they are not alone. Some may be feeling anxious or depressed for the first time in their lives, and that is normal. Feel your feelings and seek out help. Shapiro also stressed the importance of checking in on friends and family. “It’s all on us to take care of each other,” he said.


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