Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparedness Information Learn More
Taking care of your mental health during the outbreak
March 30, 2020
Rachel Kolodziej, social worker and therapist with Clark Memorial Health’s Behavioral Health services, shares how to think and talk about the effects of COVID-19 in a healthy way.
What are some ways people can help manage stress and anxiety while at home in quarantine?
Stress and anxiety are fed by rumination, or thinking and thinking about something over and over. Anxiety typically wants us to find the answer or solution quickly. When isolation is encouraged and government restrictions are enforced, a fast way to relieve stress is not easy!
I recommend people take inventory of how much news they are taking in on a daily basis. It is important to remember that if we are not actively giving our brains stimulation that promotes positive thinking or productivity, our brains will attach to the negative much easier. If we are feeding our brains fear, we may worry or have a sense of foreboding that so many with anxiety experience.
This is why I encourage people to ask themselves future- and goal-directed questions, such as “When quarantine is over, what will I thank myself for doing?” This may mean calling a friend whom you haven't spoken with in a while, going through that stack of papers on the table, or organizing your closet by seasonal clothing. If you've been unable to complete a task because of “time,” now is the time to check it off the list.
How can parents talk to their children about managing anxiety?
I believe parents should be as transparent as possible when talking with children, especially in times of crisis. If parents notice their child is ruminating or scared, helping the child to identify their feelings and then normalizing their experience creates calm. Parents could think of a time when they too felt scared, sharing what they did, and still do, to feel better. This is a great time to model and reinforce the importance of coping with emotions. Parents can model by starting a puzzle or putting shoes on for a walk.
When it comes to helping kids understand what anxiety is, I encourage parents to teach them that it is not a bad thing! If there is a tiger in the room, what would you do? RUN! This is anxiety helping you out. Sometimes anxiety wants to help in other scary times, like when routines are changed. When we do not know when or if school will resume this year, or when we cannot see our friends face-to-face, this may feel scary and strange. Anxiety alerts us to danger, but sometimes what we feel is scary will not actually hurt us.
How can people break out of a negative cycle of thinking and talking about the outbreak?People should ask themselves if they have had to overcome adversity in their past. Chances are many have overcome obstacles and roadblocks at some point in their lives. Remember that what we say and do feeds our brains, for better or worse, and that we generally have more control over our perspective than we realize. How we frame the outbreak is important as to how we think and talk about it. People could list what they can and cannot control in regards to the outbreak. Take focus on what you can control and set a positive intention each day using that focus. We do have control over what we say and do, so this may mean practicing more patience or ensuring time is spent stretching and exercising. Practice gratitude throughout the day by noting what you are thankful for in this crisis, and what you will try to take for granted less when it's over.