Medical City Healthcare - April 01, 2020

The behavioral health experts at Medical City Healthcare understand the importance of dealing with mental health, especially when so many are practicing social distancing and isolation.

Sherry Cusumano, RN, LCDC, MS of Medical City Green Oaks Hospital says “The isolation and grief imposed on us by this pandemic are sowing the seeds for another epidemic that will undoubtedly follow."

Cusumano goes on to say, "I believe that we’ll see an increase in diseases of despair, such as depression and addictions, and we’ve got to be there to help each other through this challenging time. We’ll also likely see a surge of anxiety disorders and suicide if we don’t intervene to give needed assistance.”

Ways to improve your mental health

It is important to find productive ways to deal with stress and anxiety during these trying times. Our team has compiled a list of practical tips on how to stay mentally healthy and avoid coronavirus anxiety.

Stay positive and know that this will end

As many individuals face increasing anxiety about coronavirus, it is important to remember this won’t go on forever. Although we don’t have a specific timeline, this pandemic is temporary, and, eventually, we will be able to return to our normal activities. Keeping this in mind may help ease anxiety symptoms while we’re facing this environmental stress.

Set a limit for news exposure

Although it is important to stay updated, having the news on 24 hours a day may cause additional anxiety. Make time for a news check-in up to three times a day to stay up to date with the CDC’s current guidelines, but don’t let the news dominate your day. It’s vital to still enjoy other activities that get your mind off the pandemic.

Maintain healthy eating habits

While you’re spending more time at home, it’s important to maintain healthy eating habits. You might find yourself wanting to snack more during the day, in which case it’s best to incorporate healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to fuel your brain for the day ahead. Regardless, keep a consistent eating schedule that includes drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Get active

Even though self-quarantining may make it slightly more difficult to move as much as you usually would, staying active is essential during this time. Exercise can help reduce stress and improve your overall health. If you’re wondering where to begin, there are plenty of at-home workouts online. You can even do something as simple as jumping jacks or running in place.

Exercise your brain

Just like the rest of our body, the brain needs “exercise.” You can do this through participating in activities that require engagement, such as puzzles, journaling, games or reading. Meditation is also a great way to keep the brain engaged and sharp. If you’ve never tried meditation before, there are plenty of videos online. You can also try one (or all) of these helpful smartphone apps recommended by healthcare professionals at Medical City McKinney:

Keep a daily routine

Sticking to your regular routine as much as possible can give you a feeling of normalcy, which can reduce stress. Get up in the morning and go to bed at night at your regular times. Although it might be tempting to stay in your pajamas all day, get dressed every morning. If you’re working from home, try to replicate and even improve on your usual work environment.

Focus on today

Many of us tend to think about the past or the future. Although it’s good to think ahead sometimes, spending too much time focusing on what’s in front of us can cause increased stress during uncertain times. Instead, take time to enjoy your day and remain present in the moment. Look or go outside and enjoy the sun and the view. Check-in with yourself and see what you need. Try to do this three times a day or more.

Rely on the experts

There is an overwhelming amount of information from different sources to take in during this time. This can make health-related decisions difficult. However, there are thousands of experts working hard each day to ensure they provide us with accurate information on how to proceed. It’s best to try not to over- or underreact. Trust your medical professionals to guide your decisions on social distancing and medical treatment.

Stay connected

Just because we have to be socially distant doesn’t mean we can’t be social at all. Start with finding a check-in buddy—someone you check in with daily via video chat, phone calls or messaging. Set a regular time to connect each day to ensure you have that interaction. You can also reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, or get a group of friends together for a virtual visit.

Get creative

Creativity has many benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety. You don’t need to be a professional artist to experience the benefits of creativity. Try starting with a simple activity, such as sketching something inside your home or outside your window. You can also be creative through music or songwriting—whatever expression feels right for you.

Enroll in a free online course

Among YouTube tutorials, blogs and other websites, there are countless options to learn something new. Whether you’re looking to gain a new skill or tackle a home project, there are many online classes, courses and resources to help you reach your goal.

Enjoy nature

Although some of our favorite restaurants and shops may be closed, the great outdoors is still “open for business.” If possible, spend time outside taking a walk and enjoying nature. Fresh air and moving our bodies can keep us from feeling stuck inside.

Ask for help

If anxiety about COVID-19 is starting to affect your daily life, ask a family member, friend or caregiver for help. Reaching out to others is a great way to connect, which can provide comfort during this time of isolation. If your anxiety becomes severe or you feel you are a danger to yourself or others, seek professional help immediately. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

Mental health resources in North Texas

If you are showing signs of anxiety or feel you need additional help during the COVID-19 pandemic, Medical City Green Oaks Hospital offers remote mental health solutions. The clinical staff can guide you through each step—from the initial appointment to ongoing tele-treatment.

Tele-psychiatry options include:

  • Counseling services
  • Chemical dependency support
  • Day treatment and partial hospitalization
  • Outpatient services
  • Psychiatry and medication management

Amidst the change and uncertainty brought about by the current coronavirus pandemic, one thing has become clear—it is important for us to take care of ourselves. This means not only our physical health, but our mental health as well. Our team is here to support you through this difficult time by ensuring you have the resources and tools you need to cope.