Guest post: Suggestions from a Wellness Counselor on Coronavirus and Managing Mental Health

Kate Hagadone is the Wellness Counselor at Michigan Medical School’s Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (OGPS). She sent the information in this post to an OGPS listserv at the end of last week. I thought the information would be of interest to lots more folks, so, with her permission, am reproducing her email here:

In the midst of managing a situation like the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, it is easy to feel overwhelmed & worried. Focusing on how to slow the spread of the virus is important for our physical health; however, identifying ways to manage our mental health is also crucial. 

We may experience increased feelings of anxiety or powerlessness; impatience, irritability, or frustration. We might also experience a sense of scarcity, or be concerned about increased stigmatization or xenophobia. We may feel uncertainty about the future or worry about isolation amidst rapidly changing schedules & social plans.

Suggestions for Positive Coping
While feeling worried is normal & expected, we can increase our resilience in the following ways:

  • Take breaks from the news. After a certain point, it’s more upsetting than informational. Make sure the info you do get is from reputable & non-sensationalist sources.
    • How much is helpful for you to read per day? Aim to stick to that limit. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life as much as possible.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch.meditate. Try to eat relatively well-balanced meals, move your body regularly, get plenty of sleep and highly limit alcohol & drugs. This will boost your immunity & your resilience.
  • Plan for coping with a potentially sudden drop in social contact (e.g., classes & events being cancelled):
    • Create new traditions for connecting regularly with friends, family & peers via messaging apps, etc. Check in with your people.
    • Create a new, adapted schedule taking cancellations in to account. Keep things as consistent as possible
  • Focus on what you can control in terms of disease prevention & more broadly.
  • Do a “worry drop” — write out all of your fears in a journal until your anxiety has dropped by half.
  • Make a daily list of what is going well
  • If you have a pre-existing mental health condition, these recommendations are especially important. If you have appointments with your therapist or doc, keep them. If you aren’t feeling well physically, ask if they have options for video appointments. 

More resources
These websites offer additional ideas for coping during the COVID-19 outbreak:

 

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