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Mental Health Education

COVID-19 Pandemic: Mental Health Tips and Resources

Here are tips and resources for supporting mental health during this pandemic.

controlled breathing for anxiety

Managing Stress

  • When possible, maintain a predictable, structured schedule.  Go to sleep and wake up at the same times you would if you were going to the office.  Eat at the same times you would have when you weren't "hunkering down" during the pandemic.
  • Include exercise in your daily scheduled when you can.  Running, push-ups, squats, and even dancing to the Oldies on Pandora are great ways to get your heart going and don't require too much space or contact with others.
  • Practice mindfulness meditation.  If you don't already know how to meditate, consider downloading apps that guide it for you such as HeadSpace or Calm. (Headspace currently is making some mindfulness sessions available for free. Calm offers a 7-day free trial.)
  • Limit viewing news about the pandemic to an hour or less each day.  Too much focus on the virus can result in the topic overwhelming your other thoughts and becoming an obsession.
  • Try to eat healthy foods. Focus on foods like nuts, vegetables, lean proteins, and good fats including olive oil.  Restrict empty calories from desserts and alcohol.
  • Wind down activities at least two hours before going to bed.  Taking a hot shower or bath or even drinking a hot beverage more than 2 hours before trying to sleep can facilitate falling asleep and receiving restorative sleep that night.

Managing a Mental Illness

  • People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.
  • Access psychiatry, therapy, and other mental health professionals through telemedicine. (Resource: Preparing for a therapy appointment)
  • If you do not have an existing relationship with a mental health professional, check with your insurance carrier for in-network providers, consult with your employer's employee assistance program (EAP), or consider sites like psychologytoday.com, betterhelp.com, or 7cups.com.
  • NAMI hosts online communities discussion groups where people exchange support and encouragement.
  • If you feel like a panic attack is developing, try paced breathing instead of deep breathing.  Take a regular breath in, but play a game with yourself to see how long you can exhale every breath.  While exhaling, think or say the word CALM with a goal of exhaling up to 20 - 30 seconds before breathing in again.
  • Do not hesitate to access professional mental health care in a crisis. If you or someone else is danger, please call 911. A hospital or acute care facility is the safest place for someone who is struggling with active suicidal thinking.

Helping Teens

Stress management strategies for teens:

  • Help your teen (SOURCE: AACAP):
    • Exercise and eat regularly.
    • Get enough sleep and have a good sleep routine.
    • Avoid excess caffeine which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation.
    • Learn relaxation exercises (abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques).
    • Develop assertive communication skills. For example, state feelings in polite, firm, and not overly aggressive or passive ways: ("I feel stressed when you keep asking about my schoolwork.”)
    • Learn practical coping skills. For example, break a large task into smaller, more attainable tasks.
    • Decrease negative self-talk: challenge negative thoughts - with alternative, neutral, or positive thoughts. "My life will never get better” can be transformed into "I may feel hopeless now, but my life will probably get better as scientists and clinicians find answers to this pandemic.”
    • Learn to feel good about doing a competent or "good enough” job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others.
    • Take a break from stressful situations. Activities like listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet can reduce stress.
  • The appropriate daily amount of screen entertainment will vary with the child and a greater allowance is often warranted during the COVID-19 crisis, but should not take up the majority of any child’s waking hours or interfere with sleep. Furthermore, parents should guide youth towards age appropriate, positive, creative, and educational screen media choices. (SOURCE: AACAP)
  • Your teen is likely hearing about the novel coronavirus outside home anyway, so, do not shy away from approaching or discussing it. Be proactive in talking to your child/teen about facts regarding the coronavirus. For this, you will need to equip yourself with and read about the facts around coronavirus first. Ensure that you are getting your facts from reliable sources, such as the CDC. (SOURCE: Mental Health America)

Helping Children

Helping kids cope (SOURCE: AACAP)

  • Try and establish a regular routine and schedule at home. Kids are reassured by structure and predictability.
  • Help kids keep in touch with friends and family members by phone, e-mail, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, etc.
  • If kids have questions about COVID-19 or about why you’re sheltering in place, answer them honestly, using words and concepts they can understand.
  • Encourage kids to choose something new to learn about. It could be a game, a craft or a challenging book
  • Make sure kids stay physically active. If you’re in a rural area, take a walk outside (observing social distancing guidelines). If you’re in a more urban setting, help your child develop and maintain a regular in-home exercise routine.
  • Let kids participate in menu planning and meal preparation. Try and cook or bake something new.
  • Be honest. Acknowledge that this is a difficult time for everyone. It's normal to feel tense and anxious under such trying and unusual circumstances.
  • Give kids space. Everyone needs some private “down time”.
  • Let little things go. Try not to overreact when things break, take too long or don't go quite as expected.

New Research

Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic in Populations With Serious Mental Illness
Benjamin G. Druss, MD, MPH
READ ARTICLE

Crisis Lines

Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741

Georgia Crisis Line
1-800-715-4225

National Hopeline Network
1-800-784-2433

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255

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