Part 1 of 2
The fear about your physical health and finances are overwhelming right now as you deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Your worries are real. That’s is why it is important to care for your mental outlook as we work through social distancing and isolation. As you reflect on what is happening, please keep this in mind:
First, you are not alone.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll taken in late March said the lives of 4 out of every 10 Americans have been dramatically disrupted. A Gallup poll said more than 93 percent of Americans are following the crisis closely and have greatly changed their social habits.
Second, you need to reach out for help when it becomes too much to handle. You should be aware, though, of signs that this epidemic is getting to you emotionally beyond just being unsettled.
A Monmouth survey shows 70 percent of Americans are very or somewhat concerned that they, or someone in their family, will become seriously ill from the coronavirus outbreak. This concern is leading to physical reactions such as:
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
When you are home alone or with family members, you want to do something – anything – to make your life better. You also are undoubtedly watching the news for answers and listening to healthcare providers explaining ways to protect yourself.
If you already have a tendency to hyper focus on details of your life, there is a good chance you might become overly obsessed with cleaning and disinfecting everything around the house, including your pets.
Contamination obsession is a real condition, and you should watch for it.
Let’s face it – we need each other. As humans, we depend on interaction with family, friends and co-workers to feel relevant. This is very hard as social distancing is considered critical to slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
A Harvard University Medical School study found that social connections not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking. Dozens of studies have shown that people who have social support from family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.
If you or someone you know does not want to reach out to others in your home or to call or text with family or friends, there’s a good chance the loneliness is triggering depression.
This outbreak is a trauma not seen in our lifetime. We are, therefore, prone to feeling enormous stress whether or not we or someone we love becomes infected. A survey following the 2003 SARS outbreak found that 30 percent of those affected experienced traumatic stress.
If you know of someone showing these signs or if you find yourself struggling to cope, please contact your primary care physician. Your provider can refer you to a therapist or counselor or to other resources that will help. Many mental health providers are available for counseling by telephone or online.