COVID and Mental Illness

worried looking woman at home with mask on - COVID and mental illness

The impact of coronavirus is more than just physical or economical. Mentally and emotionally, most people feel the strain of the pandemic in numerous ways. The question now is, how do we heal from it, and where do we turn for help?

COVID Simply Isn’t Over Yet

As of this writing, there are nearly 30 million cases of COVID, and approximately 500,000 Americans have died from it. Both case and death numbers are expected to rise in the next three months.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports the COVID-19 recession has made it more challenging for millions of people to get adequate food, take care of housing needs and expenses, and find employment.

While the number of businesses closed in 2020 is approximately the same as the year before, the University of Southern California reported in November 2020 that there will still be a sharp workforce decline over the next two years, and the country’s overall economic outlook will suffer even more the longer the virus remains uncontrolled.

How COVID Makes Us Feel

In February 2021, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reported that COVID “created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance abuse.” Its 2020 data indicated that 4 in 10 adult Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or some form of depressive disorder—up from 1 in 10 the year prior.

How has the pandemic continued to affect our emotional and mental health? Well, even if you’re not directly impacted by the examples above, your stress levels might be higher due to COVID-related issues such as:

  • Homeschooling and caring for children full time
  • Worry for loved ones, especially elders
  • Compounded lack of socialization
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Working from home
  • Increased work hours
  • Uncertainty about job security
  • Increased drug or alcohol use

A Closer Look

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated some of the challenges many of us have faced during the pandemic are overwhelming “and cause strong emotions in adults and children.” It also indicated, “It’s natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic.” According to the CDC, people experience:

  • Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
  • Worsening of chronic health problems and chronic pain
  • Worsening of mental health conditions

A tracking poll by the KFF also revealed notable spikes in sleep disruption, worsening chronic conditions due to stress and worry about coronavirus, increases in alcohol and substance use, and trouble eating. “As the pandemic wears on, ongoing and necessary public health measures expose many people to experiencing situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation and job loss,” the foundation said.

Taking care of your mental health during the pandemic, especially after more than a year of dealing with all of its changes and challenges, requires additional attention. Don’t assume you or loved ones are coping just fine. It’s essential to use techniques that help you find peace and, if you determine the weight of everything is simply too much, to turn to professionals for proper care.

Important Self-Care to Build Resilience

A few methods of care rarely cost anything but can provide a foundation to better mental and emotional wellness throughout each day.

  1. Reduce social media and news influences. While it’s important to stay informed, doom scrolling and doom surfing are habits that only heighten negative feelings. The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona suggests a news fast to help promote more calm. Try listening to motivational podcasts or watching inspirational documentaries to adjust your state of mind.
  2. Understand symptoms of anxiety. Even if you haven’t been officially diagnosed with a disorder, it’s possible you’re feeling overly worried, restless, exhausted, and other emotions connected to anxiety. Until you have a chance to talk with a mental health professional, try these techniques to help manage your thoughts and feelings in a better way.
  3. Establish grounding practices of wellness. Certain consistent behaviors create a foundation of comfort that help guide each day. Your routines and rituals don’t have to be elaborate—maybe commit to a 20-minute walk around the block each day, for example—but they provide stability.
  4. Try different calming techniques. Putting yourself into a more mindful state doesn’t require a lot of effort, but your immune system and amygdala—the part of your brain that processes emotions, motivation, and memories—respond quickly to certain applications. These include breathing exercises, passive muscle relaxation, and other easy and accessible methods.
  5. Use different holistic practices. Meditation, yoga, regular exercise, mindfulness, and expressions of gratitude help you develop a more measured and thoughtful approach for handling external stressors.
  6. Get out of your head and into nature. The Greater Good Science Center reports that feeling awe and wonder from the natural world helps us have more positive emotions, greater social connections, and more opportunities for personal growth.

Taking action in these various ways also helps us recognize all the means by which we can manage aspects of our lives more effectively, even when other things seem out of control.

Acknowledge When It’s Time to See a Professional

Without question, the challenges presented by the pandemic are unique, and you or a loved one might be at a point where focused, compassionate intervention is necessary to return to a path of wellness. Cottonwood Tucson offers dedicated and individualized mental health care to help people with mood disorders and co-occurring disorders. Our assessment program provides a person with a comprehensive evaluation by a team of board certified professionals. Reach out today to see how we can help you through this difficult time.

Looking for behavioral health treatment in Arizona? For more information about Cottonwood Tucson, call (800) 877-4520. We are ready to help you or your loved one find lasting recovery.

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