Virus threat tough on mental health

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — Got cabin fever? Going stir crazy?  

Feeling anxious or depressed because of the coronavirus threat and all the disruption and uncertainty it’s causing? 

If so, you’re certainly not alone.  

There are good, reliable sources of advice on preventing or coping with emotional and psychological distress triggered by a public health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is one of those sources. 

Among the things you can do to reduce stress, according to the CDC, are: 

Eat healthy meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Keep in touch with friends — from a distance, of course. Take breaks from the news and social media.  

“Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting,” the CDC observes. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is another good source of information and advice on avoiding some of the emotional fallout that can come with being isolated. 

“Social distancing is considered critical to slowing the spread of the coronavirus. However, it can understandably lead to loneliness,” NAMI says. “Social connectedness is critically important to warding off loneliness and resulting depression.” 

NAMI, like the CDC, recommends taking extended breaks from reading, watching or listening to news about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The news can be helpful by encouraging precautions and prevention,” NAMI acknowledges. “But compulsively and obsessively [consuming news] about the outbreak can be detrimental to mental health. 

“Rely on only one or two reliable sources of news, as misinformation and bad reporting are rampant.” 

To help manage stress and anxiety, NAMI also advises against checking for updates on the coronavirus pandemic more than once or twice a day: “Consume only what you need to know, what’s most relevant to you and particularly what is happening or anticipated in your community.” 

Reaching out to help others during a crisis is also a good way to help yourself stay mentally and physically healthy, NAMI says. 

The phone number for the NAMI Maine helpline is 800-464-5767. Maine residents can also call 211 for information and referrals to mental health and other health-related services. 

The Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention website is an excellent source of up-to-date information and advice about COVID-19 in Maine. 

Helping children cope 

So far, adults account for a large majority of confirmed cases of COVID-19, and children who contract the disease generally have milder symptoms, according to the CDC.  

But children and teens may have strong emotional reactions to news of the pandemic and the disruption it is causing, and they need to be able to look to adults as role models. 

“When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children,” according to the CDC. 

The agency recommends that parents talk with their children about the virus and answer their questions: “Let them know it is OK if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so they can learn how to cope from you.” 

The CDC says limiting exposure to news about the pandemic may be especially important for children because “they may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.” 

“Try to keep up with regular routines,” is another piece of advice from the CDC. “Create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.”  

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has prepared a Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease. The U.S. CDC offers a guide on “talking with children about the coronavirus.” Links to both are on the Mount Desert Island Regional School System website under “resources.” 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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