COVID-19 Resources

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Taking Care of Your Mental Health During COVID-19

Infectious disease outbreaks, including Coronavirus (COVID-19) create a great deal of uncertainty about the nature of disease, its spread, and its impact. This will understandably affect our emotional and mental health. Everyone responds to stressful situations differently and changes in mood can seem sudden, occurring at any point in time. Check out the following list of recommendations to refer to as we navigate this time:

Take a Break from Media Coverage

Turn off the television and/or alert messaging on your phone if it is increasing your distress. Exposure to media can be healthy or unhealthy, for some of us knowing helps to feel a sense of control over the situation while for others it may reinforce anxiety and fear. Research has shown that excessive media exposure to coverage of stressful events can result in negative outcomes. Gather the information you need from trusted sources, then set it aside and engage in other activities.

APA Five Ways to View Coverage of the Coronavirus

Trust Your Sources

Obtain the latest information during an infectious disease outbreak from credible and reliable sources of information. Up-to-date, accurate recommendations regarding disease prevention, self and family care, and travel guidance can be found at the following websites:

Center for Disease Control

The World Health Organization

The Chicago Department of Public Health

SAIC Make Ready

Normalize Stress Responses

Emotional distress is common and normal in the context of uncertainty and potentially life-threatening situations, such as Covid-19 pandemic. Stress can present itself in different ways including physical, emotional, or cognitive ways. One common response for young adults is a feeling of invincibility and or emotional detachment which can lead to behaviors that may significantly increase risks.

Common stress reactions include:

  • shock, things feeling surreal
  • fear or anxiety about the future or death
  • hopelessness or feeling lost about the future; feeling a lack of purpose in study or work
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • feeling emotionally detached, numb, or crying for what seems like no reason
  • rumination, preoccupation with information about the outbreak
  • difficulty getting to sleep, poor sleep quality, bad dreams, or problems staying awake during the day
  • headache, stomachache, or pain without medical causes
  • significantly decreased or increased appetite
  • relying on alcohol or substances to cope with stress
  • increased irritability, feeling angry
  • shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, experiencing panic attack(s)
  • feeling isolated or lonely, particularly due to social distancing practices

Reactions specific to COVID-19: 

  • Worry about contamination, preoccupation with any signs/symptoms of illness, excessively taking your own temperature, and frequent urges to have yourself examined at health centers. The worries may impact your daily living, social relationships, or study.
  • Experiencing symptoms such as itchy throat or nasal congestion and being concerned about having contracted coronavirus, even though no fever is present and there is little possibility of having contracted the virus in reality.
  • Feeling alone or misunderstood.
  • Feeling angry at or lacking trust in systems or others.
  • Feeling lonely or isolated due to social distancing practices.
  • Excessive attention to or obsession with related news, information, articles, or statements. The focus can result in compulsively reading about information about the outbreak, difficulty sleeping, and/or problems with concentrating on other topics.
  • Quickly jumping to conclusions based on new information, resulting in panic in self or others.
  • Experiencing feelings of grief, sadness, or a sense of unfairness related to loss.
  • “Survivor guilt” due to having no symptoms and little-to-no likelihood of having contracted the virus. For example, you might feel ashamed, guilty, or that you have abandoned your loved ones because you are not directly involved, because you are currently healthy, because others around you have fallen ill, or because there are limited ways you can help.
  • Excessive worry about loved ones who are currently affected by the virus. The worries significantly impact your daily life, social life, or study.
  • Feeling angry, disappointed, or a lack of control because your loved ones do not follow suggested precautions or believe in false information.

Discover what Self-Care Practices Work for You:

It’s normal to feel distressed in the face of hard times. There are many ways to de-stress and everyone needs something different. Here are some thoughts on how to cope when things feel stressful:

Be prepared. Develop a plan for potential outbreak and educate yourself about preventive measures: from hand-washing technique and wearing a mask correctly to finding testing locations and knowing which hospital emergency room is closest to your home.

Understand how COVID-19 affects your mental health.

Talk about it. It’s important not to hold in your emotions. Talk to a friend, family member, or a counselor. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Connect with those you feel closest to for support.

Relax and have fun! Listening to music or podcasts, exercising, practicing meditation, spending time in nature or with animals, journaling, or reading are some simple ways to help manage emotions.

Take care of your body. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and avoid alcohol and drugs, which can lead to experiencing more stress. Consider participating in online yoga or meditation classes. Here are a few suggestions we like:

Volunteer and help others. Even during your own time of distress, helping others can give you a sense of purpose and relieve feelings of anxiety or helplessness you may be experiencing. 

Get involved with a student organization that appeals to you, or join a support group with other individuals who are going through similar struggles. 

  • Visit SAIC’s Engage portal to learn about student organizations and events!

Find a healthy routine. Create a daily routine that includes personal hygiene, eating nutritious meals, connecting with others, and finding time to rest and relax away from screens. Balance a negative or pessimistic outlook by reminding yourself of people and events which are meaningful, comforting, or encouraging. Working toward balance is challenging and rewarding and can create a healthier perspective of the environment and the role you play in the world around you.

People who are managing existing mental health conditions need to prioritize self-care during periods of stress, making sure to reach out to their existing healthcare providers with questions or concerns.