Don’t Let “Social Distancing” Affect Your Mental Health, By Tom Petizzo, CEO, Tri-County Mental Health Services

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting all of us, even those without fevers or coughs. If you are worried about whether the grocery store is going to have the items you need or if you are are staying home instead of going out, COVID-19 is changing your relationship with the world. If you are nodding to your best friends instead of giving them a hug, COVID-19 is weakening your connection with your social group.

For some of us, COVID-19’s impact on our world is a minor aggravation, and we all hope that it diminishes and goes away during the next several weeks. For others, though, COVID-19 is a tipping point, or a trigger, threatening our inner peace and removing our social supports when we need them most.

What to do if you are feeling anxiety and stress because of COVID-19

First, understand that it is a completely normal and understandable reaction to feel anxious and stressed when your world is changed because of a virus, and you and your loved ones could possibly contract the illness. That stress is a natural reaction to a threatening situation.

The key, though, is to not let that stress hurt you in ways that COVID-19 will not.

  • Make sure you get plenty of rest – changes in your sleep patterns can make things worse.
  • Do NOT turn to alcohol, tobacco, or other substances that are not meant to provide relief – they, too, will make things worse.

If you are feeling new or worsening symptoms of stress or anxiety, call Tri-County at (816) 468-0400.  If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself, call us at (816) 468-0400.

Most importantly, though, take good care of yourself during this stressful time. Instead of thinking about all of the things you can’t do, try focusing on the extra time you have to accomplish chores or hobbies at home. We’ve compiled a list of activities that can be helpful alternatives to focusing on the virus. Instead, take a break from social media sources that are spreading panic and alarm and consider some of these ideas:

  • Take a walk
  • Close your eyes and listen to some of your favorite music
  • Reread a favorite book or poem
  • Call a friend and tell them a knock-knock joke
  • Clean house, clean out closets/drawers, do yard work, etc.
  • Use Skype or Facetime or just a phone call to catch up on news from family or friends
  • Engage in activities you can do around the house, such as painting, drawing, and cooking
  • Keep a regular sleep pattern and meal times
  • Take your dog to the park
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show
  • Play board games

If your fears, stress and anxiety are too big to deal with on your own, then please seek the help that you need. We are here for you, and we want to help.