The unexpected challenges brought on by a global pandemic cause not only fear of contracting the Coronavirus, but also stress and anxiety. Increased caretaking responsibilities as schools closed, the economic impact of a reduced workforce, the confinement of social-distancing, and the uncertainty of not knowing when life will return to normal, create the perfect storm for mental health challenges. During Mental Health Awareness Month, AHCCCS reminds members that mental health resources are available and mental health services covered.
Stress and anxiety can be different for different people and can include difficulty sleeping or concentrating, changes in eating patterns, or increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other substances.
Make time to unwind. Try to do activities you enjoy.
Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you feel.
Get the health care you need. Contact your health care provider to discuss consulting options during the pandemic such as telehealth.
Check on your neighbors who live alone; those living in isolation are at greater risk for depression and suicidal thoughts.
Continuing mental health treatment during this time is extremely important, as symptoms can increase during a crisis. Virtual group or individual therapy and phone consultations are some of the ways health care providers are serving those in need.
If you or someone you know is experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety or depression, get help.
The COVID-19 virus has many in Arizona and around the world separating themselves from community like they haven’t before. Social distancing is recommended, including keeping at least 3 feet between you and anyone else in a public space. While staying at home or keeping a safe distance between others is the best advice, it may be hard on our emotional health.
While much of what is happening may leave you feeling anxious or like you do not have control, there are steps you can take to feel empowered and mentally healthy. We are not helpless: we can choose our response.
1. Make a list of what is in your control, and what isn’t. Focus on what you can control, like being diligent about hand washing, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and social distancing.
2. Think about what makes you feel safe. How can you feel safe at home? Maybe it is reading on the couch under a weighted blanket, or holding a pet. Perhaps it is watching a funny movie or playing a game online. Take steps to do the tasks now that give you a sense of security.
3. Get fresh air. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you can’t take a long walk. There is a lot of research to show fresh air, sunshine and Vitamin D will help boost your mood. Physical health also helps mental health.
4. Try to only think about today. Worrying about tomorrow or the distant future can be daunting. Instead, focus on what is before you. Think of your senses. What is blooming outside in your neighborhood? Can you hear the birds singing from your kitchen? Are there clouds in the sky? Engage in mindfulness and meditation if you have moments when things feel out of control.
5. Connect with others. Call your family. Write old fashioned pen pal letters to friends. Join a chat group online. There are ways to connect without being in the same room. Talking with others who we trust about how we are feeling is important to our mental health. Talking with your behavioral health provider may be a good idea too.
If you’re feeling alone and struggling, you can also reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Youth may be feeling heightened anxiety about COVID-19 and being out of school. Routines have changed and they may feel unsettled. When speaking to a student or child about what’s happening, a few suggestions:
1. How are they are feeling? 2. How are they are sleeping? 3. Are they getting enough to eat? 4. Are they feeling anger? 5. Do they feel safe?
Reassure them that feeling scared, anxious, or angry is okay and normal. Give them suggestions for things they can do to feel more in control, like practicing breathing exercises, going for a bike ride, reading a book, playing with a pet.
If you are worried the student is experiencing suicidal thoughts, ask if there is someone else in the home. Make sure there is someone with the child. If the child is alone, keep them on the phone while you contact a parent or guardian. Local crisis teams can be reached at: 1-800-631-1314. This is a free service and they will be able to provide advice on appropriate next steps.
If the child isn’t getting enough to eat, or you are worried about the family’s food security, contact the Arizona Food Bank Network. Their website has the ability to enter a zip code and find the closest food bank or pantry. www.azfoodbanks.org 1-800-445-1914
Also, many schools are providing free breakfast and lunch for students while schools are closed. More information on participating locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/u9orpud