COVID-19 Affecting your Mental Health

Dear Scared & Anxious Friend,

For some of us the novel Corona virus will cause more mental and emotional havoc in our lives than physical distress. So I am writing this in hopes of providing some comfort that many of us desperately need in this climate of fear and panic.

Are you finding yourself washing your hands until your skin cracks because they are so dry…even when you haven’t left the house? Fear can exacerbate existing obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions as it amps your mind into survival mode. With this heightened sense of fear and panic the primitive portions of our brain are doing what they know best… preparing for a famine. This is why you see people hoarding and fighting over toilet paper at Costco. But folks don’t worry, because the world is probably not running out of toilet paper. Even if it was, all you would need is a hand bidet and a towel for your bathroom needs. And it will be mind-blowingly refreshing. 

Chances are, especially because it is flu season, you were already practicing many of the necessary safety measures that are recommended by the CDC long before these precautions were headlining the media. You already wash your hands or sanitize before you eat, and you already keep your distance from people who are coughing and sneezing. Not to mention you were already taking your Vitamins C & D. Finally, Kim Kardashian told us a long time ago to never ever touch our faces because its bad for our skin, right? One of the the biggest changes will be consistently adding “mask” to your mental list before heading out the door: phone, wallet, keys, & mask. And of course keeping people out of your 6ft personal bubble. And these simple actions, my friends, are your strongest line of defense against the dreaded COVID-19.

Fear, panic, and stress will have the opposite effect on your health and well being. First of all running in masses to the grocery stores will only increase risk of exposure. But more importantly, long term stress hormones will compromise your immune system. And the LAST thing you need is a compromised immune system during the flu season. So take a deep breath, relax, and focus on calming your mind.

Investing time in building your immune system via healthy habits will increase your chances of fighting off any potential virus far better than hoarding toilet paper or even Lysol. Both our physical AND mental health contribute to our immune system, so here are a few things you can focus on to support your overall well being:

  1. Eat well (fruits and leafy greens), take your vitamins, & exercise.
  2. Reduce your media/social media consumption!
  3. Manage your anxiety through 4-7-8 breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, and/or guided meditations.
  4. Manage compulsive urges (ie. washing your hands every 20 seconds instead of for a duration of 20 seconds) by taking deep breaths, relaxing and distracting yourself.
  5. If you are religious or spiritually inclined, connect with your higher power & remember that your higher power is more powerful than a virus.

Another thing I want to highlight is that unlike most time periods when pandemic diseases were a concern, the problem is not that we are uninformed, but that we are over-exposed to information & misinformation. See link below for myths debunked by two pathologists:

If you are finding yourself overwhelmed and terrified even though you are not in the affected areas that have community transmission, chances are you are overexposed to media. I know how hard it can be to avoid your phone or television as updates come in. However, a media fast for just 2 days will help you feel drastically different. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of myths out there and I would recommend that you only visit the CDC website for up-to-date information on your area.

Better yet, if possible, completely disconnect yourself for at least 2 days and ask a loved one to give you info only if you absolutely need it for your health and safety.

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