The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has far-flung effects that spread beyond the infectious disease itself. In addition to taking steps to combat the spread of COVID-19, people must understand the pandemic’s impact on mental health. That way, everyone can work together to simultaneously stop the spread of COVID-19, and help one another manage stress and anxiety related to the pandemic.
How Does a Pandemic Affect Mental Health?
Along with a physical health crisis, a pandemic can lead to an uptick in stress and anxiety and put extreme duress on mental wellbeing.
Once a pandemic occurs, people may become increasingly concerned about getting infected with a disease. In the case of COVID-19, government officials have recommended social distancing to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Yet, social distancing can lead to emotional distancing and may cause some people to separate themselves from others altogether. When this happens, people may feel exceedingly isolated and trapped, leading to severe depression, anxiety, and stress, and feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and emptiness.
A pandemic can also result in widespread panic and fear. People may stockpile non-perishable foods, clean drinking water, and other emergency supplies. This can lead to shortages of items at convenience stores and supermarkets, as well as an increase in stress and anxiety as people become overly concerned about these shortages.
The uncertainty around when a pandemic will end can severely affect a population’s mental health as well. A pandemic may seem endless, and the longer it persists, the more severe its impact on a population’s mental health can be. If people try to ignore the stress and anxiety they experience during a pandemic; their symptoms may escalate over time. As a result, these people may be susceptible to stress and anxiety that causes fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and other physical side effects.
For people who already had a mental health diagnosis such as major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 can be even more acute. Existing symptoms such as hopelessness, suicidality, or persistent anxiety and sadness may get worse during these trying times.
How to Manage Stress and Anxiety During a Pandemic
Unfortunately, there may be no stopping stress and anxiety during a pandemic, but there are things that people can do to manage the symptoms associated with them.
Acknowledging stress and anxiety provides a great starting point to help manage these issues. If people can identify the warning signs of stress and anxiety in themselves, they can then take safe, effective steps to cope with their symptoms.
When stress and anxiety occur, it may be helpful to take a few deep breaths to calm down. Remember, stress and anxiety during a pandemic may seem tough to manage, but much in the way these symptoms will subside, the pandemic will eventually come to an end.
It may also be beneficial to set up times to video or phone chat with family members and friends. In doing so, people can talk about their stress and anxiety with loved ones and feel supported during a challenging time.
The media provides 24/7 news coverage during a pandemic, which can be both good and bad. If people find the stress and anxiety of ongoing pandemic news coverage feels overwhelming, stop watching it, at least for the time being.
Instead of watching news coverage of a pandemic, watching a funny or soothing TV show or movie may help people take their mind off of stress and anxiety. Streaming services are available that allow people to access thousands of TV shows and movies on a desktop or laptop computer, smartphone, or tablet, and many entertaining YouTube videos are available free of charge.
If you have already been diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as depression, OCD, or anxiety, it is critical that you continue your treatment plan, even during the coronavirus pandemic. Do not make any changes to your symptom management plan without consulting with your doctor first. Medications can be set up to be delivered to your home. Your therapist is likely to provide teletherapy appointments so that you can talk to them from home. Mental health services such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treatment are considered “essential” and are therefore allowed to operate during the COVID-19 crisis.
Finally, if stress and anxiety become too much to handle during a pandemic, call 911, or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
How to Manage Stress and Anxiety When Practicing Social Distancing
Social distancing can play an important role in the stop of a pandemic, but it should not cause stress and anxiety levels to rise. With the right approach to social distancing, people can keep a safe distance from others to lower the risk of spreading disease and manage stress and anxiety until the crisis is over.
For those who feel isolated and trapped during a pandemic, getting a few minutes of outdoor time can make a world of difference. If outside, practice social distancing, and be sure to stay a minimum of 6 feet away from others.
Keep in mind that professional mental health support is available to help people cope with stress and anxiety, even if social distancing is practiced during a pandemic. Telemedicine options enable people to securely and instantly connect to mental health professionals via computer or mobile device, and engage in a real-time, face-to-face conversation about stress and anxiety.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised public health concerns among global communities, and mental health issues are also prominent during the crisis. Achieve TMS is available to help people take steps to manage stress and anxiety now and in the future.
At Achieve TMS, we recognize the difficulty of managing stress and anxiety during the coronavirus crisis, and we are here to assist our patients and their families throughout the pandemic. To help patients dealing with stress and anxiety, we are providing complimentary TMS therapy consultations, evaluations, and post-treatment follow-up appointments over the phone.
For patients who want to start TMS treatment with us, we encourage you to begin the insurance approval process as soon as possible.