Warning Signs and Prevention Steps
As we continue to read about the growing physical symptoms that could indicate you have COVID-19, it’s important to also be paying attention to the changes in your mental health during this period of significant social distancing.
Warning signs to keep an eye out for during this time include:
Anxiety: It’s very easy to feel anxious about the spread of a virus still being studied by researchers and medical professionals. Whether it’s feeling your heartbeat accelerate or your stomach tighten, anxiety is something that can cause individuals to avoid people or withdraw from regular communication - even the online variety. This can also lead to feeling agitated or acting aggressively.
What you can do: Take a minute (or a few) and take a deep breath. Feeling anxious or experiencing a racing heart can often be calmed by mindfulness practices, which can include breathing exercises or meditation. A change of scenery, even if it means taking some time outside - on a porch, in a backyard, or on a walking trail - can also help alleviate feelings of being out of control.
Depression: The pandemic has created an atmosphere of many questions. How long will it last? How many will be infected? What will this mean for my health, my job and my family? Without quick answers, it can be easy to become despondent or even depressed. These feelings can turn into a lack of motivation and increased difficulty in making decisions.
What you can do: Setting small, achievable goals can help create feelings of motivation, accomplishment and control. Whether it’s setting up a short daily to-do list or creating a schedule for the week to keep you on task, developing a road map that includes a reward system of even something small, like a checkmark, can provide a framework for achievement.
Difficulty sleeping: During periods of heightened stress, like the one we’re in, it can be difficult to “turn off” your thoughts and feelings at night to move into a period of restfulness and then sleep. The interruption of routine also can disrupt the process we previously had set up to deliver us a good night’s sleep.
What you can do: Make an effort to keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, even if it looks a little different than the one you had pre-pandemic. Going to bed a little later these days? That’s okay. Just try to give yourself some time each morning as well. Try, each day, to get up and lay down around the same time, and add electronics-free buffer times so you don’t start or end your day scrolling. Instead of falling asleep on the couch, go to bed in an effort to get a full night’s rest. It’s also important not to spend more than nine hours in bed.
Grief: You don’t necessarily need to lose a loved one to grieve. It’s possible to mourn the loss of a regular routine that worked for us, the cancellation of travel plans or even the abrupt end of an academic career without the milestone marker of a ceremony or a graduation. This pandemic has dramatically changed everyday life and, as we start figuring out what the days and months ahead will look like, it’s possible that things won’t just go back to exactly the way they were.
What you can do: This pandemic is affecting millions of people around the world, which provides common experiences. And with so many opportunities for online connections, it can be relatively easy to share experiences with like-minded people without ever meeting them in person. Reaching out to other people, even if it’s not physically, can be important during this period of change. Mental health professionals can be a great resource during this time.
If you or a loved one is in a mental health crisis that cannot wait - please don’t wait. The expert team at Willow Creek Behavioral Health is a phone call away, 24/7. Call (920) 328-1220, or toll free at (844) 308-5050, to be connected with a mental health professional who can help to determine the next steps - including setting up an in-person assessment the same day.