The COVID-19 outbreak is stressful for many people. Fear of the disease and uncertainty about the future can feel overwhelming. Many of us are grappling with ongoing changes caused by the outbreak, including health concerns, changes to our daily routine, financial worries and working or attending school from home. These experiences can cause strong emotions.
If you have an existing mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may experience new or worsening symptoms related to the outbreak. It’s important to stay in touch with your health care providers and let them know about any changes that concern you. Working together, you can manage your condition during these difficult times.
How COVID-19 affects mental health
Here are some ways the COVID-19 outbreak may affect mental health:
- Physical distancing can trigger feelings of loneliness.
- Increased exposure to the news 24/7 can increase anxiety.
- Health care providers and other essential workers may experience burnout.
- Caring for someone with COVID-19 or caring for someone at increased risk of COVID-19 can be stressful.
- Juggling work and overseeing children attending school at home can be exhausting.
Managing your mental health condition during COVID-19
If you have a mental health condition, here’s what you can do:
- Stay in touch with your health care provider for support. If you regularly meet with a psychiatrist or psychologist, ask if you can switch to virtual care visits.
- Tell your provider if you’re experiencing new or worsening mental health symptoms.
- Monitor yourself and tell your provider if you notice any changes in sleep, eating habits, trouble concentrating, feeling frustrated or cranky, or increased use of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.
- Make sure you have at least 30 days of medication at home. If possible, use a mail-order pharmacy for prescription refills to help limit your exposure to COVID-19.
- Work with your provider to develop a treatment plan in case you get sick with COVID-19 or have a mental health crisis.
These healthy habits can help you cope with COVID-19 stress and anxiety:
- Eat healthy foods to help bolster your immune system.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day for an instant stress reducer.
- Get a good night’s sleep to help improve brain function.
- Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation, which can help lower stress hormones and boost your immune system.
- Maintain structure in your day by sticking to a schedule.
- Stay connected to family and friends. To help reduce feelings of isolation, check in with loved ones by phone or virtually.
- Stay informed but limit your exposure to the news.
Mental health resources
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)