The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a range of emotions, including anxiety, grief, uncertainty and sadness. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 40% of U.S. adults are struggling with their mental health, with 31% reporting symptoms of anxiety. Another study found nearly one-third of teens surveyed reported feeling unhappy or depressed in recent months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re experiencing any of these feelings, you’re not alone.
Feeling stressed or anxious can manifest in different ways, but it may look like difficulty sleeping or concentrating, fear about your health, feelings of worry or sadness, increased substance use or changes in appetite. This varies from person to person, so it is important to check in with yourself and pay attention to what may have changed over the last few months. This may be “the new normal,” but if it is not something that affected you pre-pandemic, it might be worth taking a second look.
Managing stress and anxiety is important now more than ever as we manage physical distancing, “doomscrolling” and staying healthy. It can be hard to make your mental health a priority right now, but it is essential to take care of yourself. If you’re feeling more anxious than usual these days, follow these tips from Mental Health First Aid (MHFA):
- Talk to someone you trust. Your support network is not there just for you in good times – your loved ones are there to lean on when you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad or angry. If you’re not comfortable speaking to a friend or family member, or if it’s not possible, a mental health professional is also a great option. Whoever you talk to, it is important to be open and honest so you can receive the support you need.
- Create a self-care plan. A self-care plan is a long-term investment that should include things you enjoy doing. Many find journaling is a great outlet, but if writing isn’t your thing, try listening to music to boost your mood. If the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor exercise, have a dance party in your living room! Think about things that will boost your mood and go from there.
- Keep a routine. Our sense of normalcy has been disrupted by the pandemic, so a routine you can stick to will help you regain a sense of control if you’re feeling anxious. But stay flexible; If something stops working or if makes you feel worse, switch it up. Don’t let your new routine become a rut.
- Find new safe activities. This is the perfect time to try something new. Something that you may not be good at, but want to improve on (hello, Sudoku) or do something around the house that you’ve been meaning to do but didn’t have time. There are also plenty of things you can still do outdoors with safe social distancing, such as a walk or outdoor workout!
Increased feelings of anxiety and stress aren’t uncommon right now, so remember that if you’re feeling “off,” you’re not the only one. Getting the support you need should be a top priority. There are resources available to you if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Speak to your primary care physician or a mental health professional to discuss coping strategies or reach out to community organizations that may be able to help.
You deserve to feel supported and using these tips can help you #BeTheDifference for yourself.
If you or someone you care about feel overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or like you want to harm yourself or others, call 911.
You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or text MHFA to 741741 to talk to a Crisis Text Line counselor.
- Garcia-Navarro, Lulu. (2020). Your ‘Doomscrolling’ Breeds Anxiety. Here’s How To Stop The Cycle. NPR, July 19, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2020/07/19/892728595/your-doomscrolling-breeds-anxiety-here-s-how-to-stop-the-cycle.
- Margolius, M., Doyle Lynch, A., Pufall Jones, E. & Hynes, M. (2020). The State of Young People During COVID-19: Findings from a Nationally Representative Survey of High School Youth. Americas Promise Alliance, June 2020. https://www.americaspromise.org/sites/default/files/d8/YouthDuringCOVID_FINAL%20%281%29.pdf .
- Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA for Adults Assisting Adults. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
- Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. (2020) Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 69:1049–1057. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm?s_cid=mm6932a1_w.
- Nied, Jennifer. (2020). The Best Hobbies to Pick Up During Quarantine – and After. Shape, April 23, 2020. https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/cool-hobby-ideas.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Coping with Stress. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 22, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.