Social distancing may be a good way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it can also wreak havoc on one’s mental health. Other life changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic can also contribute to bouts of stress and anxiety, according to mental health professionals.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and it’s a good time — particularly this year amid a public health emergency — to consider following recommendations for monitoring our own mental health, as well as our loved ones.
The Mayo Clinic has created a web page titled “COVID-19 and your mental health,” mayocl.in/3fparZI. Among the factors causing stress, according to the Mayo Clinic, are altered daily routines, financial pressures and social isolation.
“Information overload, rumors and misinformation can make your life feel out of control and make it unclear what to do,” the Mayo Clinic states. Stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness are some of the outcomes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following tips to cope with stress:
- Take breaks from watching TV, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. According to the CDC, hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. This includes exercise, lots of sleep and healthy eating, all of which will help improve health and strengthen the immune system.
- Make time to unwind. Board games and card games are especially helpful at getting one’s mind off stressful news.
The Mayo Clinic reminds people that acts of kindness can help improve mental health. “Find purpose in helping the people around you,” it says. “If you know someone who can’t get out, ask if there’s something needed, such as groceries or a prescription picked up.”
Connecting with friends and relatives via FaceTime or Zoom, or even texts and phone calls, are good ways to brighten one’s disposition, the CDC said.
Michael Home, director of clinical services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Va., encourages using technology in fun, new ways to stay connected.
“Consider virtual coffee dates, game nights on webcams or karaoke on a video conferencing platform,” he told the Arlington Catholic Herald. “While it may not be the same as really being there, the creative use of technology can help bridge the gap until the crisis passes.”
Prayer is also an important anchor, said Home. “The inability to attend Mass and receive Communion is an incredible hardship for the faithful, but we can still rely on our faith during these challenging times,” he said.
Home offers some practical ways to make prayer a daily dose of support.
“Take five minutes to read the Gospel of the day. Take 10 minutes for a Divine Mercy chaplet. Take 20 minutes for a family rosary. Take 30 minutes to watch one of the many livestreamed Masses from parishes around the diocese,” said Home.
“Strengthening our prayer life and remaining engaged in our faith reminds us that we are not alone, but are part of a widespread community, praying daily with each other and for one another.”
In the Diocese of Green Bay, Catholic Charities offers counseling services to help people cope with stress brought on by the pandemic. See their advertisement on page 15 of this newspaper or visit their website, newcatholiccharities.org.