COVID-19 effects are not just physical
by Pat Takacs, MSN, RN
(Plain Press, December 2020) COVID-19 effects are not just physical–as devastating as these are to the person infected. It also has emotional, mental, and spiritual effects. Everyone deals with anxiety from this virus in different ways. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress from this pandemic might reveal itself in a variety of ways: fear about your own health and the health of your loved ones; changes in sleep, concentration, or eating patterns; worsening of chronic health problems; and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
Things you can do to support yourself include stepping away from the constant drone of the newscasts now and then, including social media. CDC also recommends taking care of your body through deep breathing exercises; physical exercising, stretching and meditation; eating well-balanced, healthy meals; getting plenty of sleep; and avoiding excess alcohol and drugs.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states: “We are not helpless in light of current events. We can always choose our response.” The Foundation offers these guides on coping with uncertainty: 1) Separate what is in your control from what is not. Wash your hands, keep your distance, wear a mask. Skip the news if you want. 2) Do what helps you to feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, so don’t try to compare yourself to others. 3) Go outside, take a walk in the neighborhood, wave hello to those you see. 4) Stay in the present. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, gently bring yourself back into the now and enjoy the sights, sounds and other sensory experiences in your environment. Journal your thoughts and leave them there on the page, don’t take them back.
The Mayo Clinic also encourages taking care of your mind and spirit. They state you need to make connections with those you love, including your spiritual community. Do something for others by finding purpose in helping the people around you, especially those who are elderly. They go on to state: “Everyone entered these times with their normal everyday stressors. But the crisis of COVID-19 can push you beyond your ability to cope”. If your feeling overwhelmed with sadness, depression or anxiety, here are some other options: 1) Contact a close friend or loved one, or a minister or spiritual leader, or someone in your faith community to share your feelings. 2) Contact your Employee Assistance Program and ask for a referral to a mental health professional. 3) Call your Primary care Provider or Mental Health Professional to ask for an appointment by phone, video or online.
If you need help right now, call 911 if it’s an emergency; Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; Contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 (TTY: 800-846-8517).
When the COVID-19 crisis ends, stress won’t disappear. Continue these self-care practices. Above all, be gentle with yourself and others as, “…the greatest of these is LOVE”.