LINCOLN – As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world, it’s normal to be worried about catching it. Don’t let that normal, reasonable worry snowball into debilitating anxiety or depression – there are steps you can take to protect your mental health.
In addition to following those social distancing processes intended to protect physical health, it’s important to pay attention to mental health related to the outbreak. “An outbreak like this affects everyone, and an emotional response to its impact is normal,” said Mikayla Johnson, disaster behavioral health coordinator and administrator for the Division of Behavioral Health. “However, don’t allow worries about the virus to control your life.”
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations such as an infectious disease outbreak that requires social distancing, quarantine, or isolation. People may feel:
- Anxiety, worry, or fear related to health status
- Time taken off from work and the potential loss of income and job security
- The challenges of securing needed things, such as groceries and personal care items
- Loneliness associated with feeling cut off from the world and from loved ones
- Anger at being exposed to the disease because of others’ perceived negligence
- Boredom and frustration at not being able to work or engage in regular activities
- Uncertainty or ambivalence about the situation
- A desire to use alcohol or nicotine or drugs to cope
- Feelings of hopelessness, changes in appetite, or sleeping too little or too much
How can you manage your fears and anxieties during an outbreak?
- Access reliable information sources. Some social media can easily spread rumors, and a constant stream of rumors and questionable information can negatively affect mental health. Only read information from sources you know to be factual – otherwise, keep scrolling.
- Avoid watching, reading or listening to opinion programs on 24 hour news networks that cause you to feel anxious or distressed. Seek information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of opinion shows during a crisis can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts.
- Share reliable information. Rely on and share trusted sources of information about the causes of outbreaks from reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Nebraska DHHS’s dedicated coronavirus page.
- Keep connected. Maintaining social networks can help maintain a sense of normalcy, and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. Call your friends. Help children video chat with relatives or classmates.
- Keep things in perspective. Keep informed, but don’t focus on factors you can’t control. Public health agencies and experts in all countries are working on the outbreak to ensure the availability of the best care to those affected.
- Practice self-care. Exercise regularly, go for walks, keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy food.
- Be mindful of assumptions about others. Someone who has a cough or a fever does not necessarily have coronavirus. Coronavirus can affect any age or ethnicity. Coronavirus is not the fault of any country or ethnic group.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or the Nebraska Family Helpline, (800) 866-8660.