EVANSVILLE, Ind. — As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, it’s effects are growing to include more than the potentially life-threatening COVID-19 respiratory illness.
On Wednesday, Indiana joined a growing list of states urging residents to stay home unless absolutely essential to slow the spread of the disease. Many Hoosiers have already been either working from home or sent home from their jobs for more than a week.
So it’s understandable if people feel stressed out.
That’s why mental health experts are urging people not just to be mindful of their physical health but on their psychological health too.
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“These are unprecedented times and this is an extreme amount of stress to our entire system,” said Katy Adams, CEO of Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare. “Nobody can get through this without having some sort of stress and strain. We all need things we can count on, like routine. No one is immune to enduring stress.”
With everyday routines interrupted, it’s important for people to create new routines.
“Right now we are creating a new normal,” Adams said.
Stress might surface in a variety of ways, she said, and might include signs such as being short-tempered with other people, sleeplessness, headaches, stomach aches or feelings of anxiety. Those who internalize stress might feel constantly exhausted.
“We need to listen to our bodies,” Adams said.
She said the added stress of working at home might cause other issues that have previously been simmering beneath the surface to come out.
Southwestern is urging people to take time to do “self checkups” and examine how they are doing personally by asking these questions:
- Are you feeling constantly hurried, pressured or hassled?
- Are you finding yourself to be irritable or moody?
- Are you experiencing stomach problems or headaches?
- Is your sleep disrupted? Are you having trouble falling or staying asleep or having stressful dreams?
- Are you drinking too much, smoking too much or overeating?
- Do you feel anxious or sad?
If people are feeling symptoms of stress, Southwestern is suggesting they take a “mental health day” to take care of themselves.
Other suggestions include:
- Eat healthy and exercise
- Use your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if your company offers this or contact a therapist to schedule an appointment via telehealth
- Stay organized and stick to a schedule
- Continue to attend recovery meetings via online
- Ask for help; you can’t do this alone
- Take time daily for relaxation and meditation
- Take a day off to be unplugged from all things work/COVID-19.
While staying at home might sound like a vacation for some people, it can take its toll when it is for day-after-day.
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“For people who are already struggling with mental health issues, the isolation can be difficult,” said Janie Chappell, Deaconess Cross Pointe’s manager for Business Development and Community Services.
Even for those who don’t live with mental illness, isolation can be a struggle, she said.
“We are such social beings that when we have to sit tight like we are now, it’s hard on people. We need that social interaction,” Chappell said.
She suggests people take advantage of technology and social media to stay in touch.
Utilizing social media platforms such as FaceTime or Skype can be especially important, she said.
“Just seeing the person can make a huge difference,” Chappell said.
But she said it also is important not to forget about those who might not use those means of communication.
“It is really important to reach out to your friends and family, but also with the elderly who might not have that kind of technology,” Chappell said.
She also recommends people use their stay-at-home time for introspection and slowing down the pace of their normal lives.
“Try to do those things you like to do such as reading, writing, gardening, meditating or relaxation exercises,” Chappell said.
She also cautions against using alcohol as a means of coping.
“It might seem okay now, but it can cause problems later,” she said. “There are ways to get professional health if you are struggling.”
For those who find themselves struggling with stress, there are resources available.
- Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a free resource of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters — including the coronavirus pandemic. The Helpline immediately connects callers to trained professionals from the closest crisis counseling centers in a nationwide network of centers.
- Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare, main number, (812) 423-7791
- Deaconess Cross Pointe, (812) 476-7200
- Suicide Prevention Hotline, (812) 422-1100
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255