Coronavirus (COVID-19) Fears and Our Mental Health

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By Rachel Merchan, LCSW, Social Worker, Northern Westchester Hospital

The coronavirus is on everyone’s mind. It’s impacting how we work, learn and connect with one another. It’s also the top story on all major news outlets. All of this has many of us feeling scared, nervous or anxious. Unfortunately, that can make things worse, taking a toll on our mental health. Here are some tips to support your emotional health and wellbeing, and help you, and those you love, cope.

Consider a news detox

A never-ending stream of information and misinformation from a variety of sources may contribute to the rising sense of panic we feel when thinking about coronavirus.

Consider taking a break from, or reducing, the number of updates you consume.

See how you feel after taking a pause from the news for a few hours, or a day, and go from there.

If you must search, seek trustworthy sources – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or your local health department.

Make decreasing stress a priority

Find ways to de-stress, such as listening to music, a deep breathing exercise or guided meditation, stretching, or a walk outside.

Understand the root of your concerns

Ask yourself: What am I most worried about? Fear often stems from the unknown. Try to understand why you are afraid, and then seek reliable sources of information to address your concerns, such as the CDC, or your healthcare provider. This can also be an important starting point when discussing the coronavirus with loved ones who are afraid. Open and honest communication can go a long way in helping us feel heard and understood.

Ask for support

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, unable to manage your emotions or struggling to function, it’s time to seek help. Let friends and family members know you’re having a hard time and seek professional support.

Acknowledge what you can control

There’s still a lot we don’t know about coronavirus. It’s okay, normal and expected to feel uncertain and scared. However, staying in that scary, uncertain space long-term isn’t good for us.

Think about taking action in a safe way:

Learn the facts

Share your knowledge with others

Let loved ones know you are available for support

Treat others with respect, whether you are a patient, care provider or community member

Acknowledge that we’re all in this together

We will get through this as a community and become stronger, together. Take care of each other and take care of yourself and wash your hands.

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