As we have watched the unfolding of the COVID-19 outbreak spread across the globe, many of us are understandably anxious. As schools, restaurants, gyms, and businesses close, we have been called upon to “socially distance” in the hopes that we can contain the virus and “flatten the curve,” (slowing the rate of infection). A trip to the grocery store can make an otherwise calm person anxious. With so much unknown and life changing so rapidly, we can easily become anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed.
We can help.
Saratoga Hospital’s Executive Director of Behavioral Health Janice Prichett, LCSW-R, says, “We are all living through unexpected turmoil in our lives. It is completely natural to feel worried, frustrated, and frightened about your health, your family, and even your job. It is important that you don’t compound all those feelings by ignoring them.”
Prichett also reminds us that helping others cope with their stress can actually help you feel better, too. It’s important to maintain your relationships and social support, which is easily done through social media and real time audio/visual conversations through Skype, FaceTime and other platforms.
Here are some other helpful suggestions from Prichett and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for coping with stress and anxiety:
- Take care of your body. Have a regular yoga class? Do you go to the gym regularly? Switch to a class on YouTube. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, continue to exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Stay physically active—be outdoors if you can. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
- Take a break from the news. It’s important to stay informed, but watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media, over and over about the pandemic can be upsetting. Get what you need from reliable news sources, then turn it off.
- Limit screen time. The more you are online or staring at screens, the more you may increase your anxiety. Give your eyes and mind a break by opening a window and breathing fresh air. Go for a walk if you can. Try to do some other activities you enjoy, take the time to learn a new language, or try something new.
- Be careful without going overboard. You should absolutely take the precautions recommended by the CDC and other reputable healthcare providers. However, avoid the temptation to give in to your fears by using potentially unsafe home remedies, completely closing yourself off from your community, or other unhealthy behaviors.
- Maintain normalcy. Keep your regular routine as much as possible. Continue getting up and showering as you always do, making changes only if needed. Work from home. Continue your weekly chess game through Skype or call your teammates during your normal hoop time. Maintaining your overall routine can lower your stress.
Most importantly, remind yourself that we’re all in this together, and Saratoga Hospital has resources for patients feeling anxious or depressed. “We can help you get through this,” says Prichett. “You are not alone.”
Are you a patient of a Saratoga Hospital Medical Group provider and feeling anxious or depressed about COVID-19 or anything else? Ask your primary care provider to refer you to our telephonic behavioral health services, so you can speak with one of our caring staff directly about your feelings and concerns. These phone services include screening, assessment, and counseling for anxiety, depression, substance use, and other mental health services. If you are looking for a primary care provider, please call the Saratoga Hospital Medical Group Patient Concierge at 518-886-5900.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) also offers useful resources addressing coronavirus anxiety, managing isolation, how to talk with your children and teens, personal stories of triumph, and more.
If your stress or anxiety is keeping you from getting through your day for longer than a week, or you cannot shake serious feelings of sadness and depression, call your healthcare provider right away. You can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
For important coronavirus information here in our community, please visit Saratoga Hospital’s COVID-19 response and recommendations page.