While COVID-19 continues to take center stage in today’s news cycle, our daily routines and everyday conversations, we understand it can be overwhelming for many. Here, Atrium Health experts provide tips and resources that allow people to take care of their mental health – making time to feel happy and calm.

Coronavirus Updates, Your Health

Staying Mentally Strong During the Ongoing Pandemic

While COVID-19 continues to take center stage in today’s news cycle, our daily routines and everyday conversations, we understand it can be overwhelming for many. Here, Atrium Health experts provide tips and resources that allow people to take care of their mental health – making time to feel happy and calm.

With the arrival of the Delta variant and the number of COVID-19 cases rising throughout the United States, anxiety and fear are also rising. Normalcy was beginning to return for many of us thanks to vaccination, but some of those mental health issues remained – and are now returning for some. It has become more important than ever to look after ourselves and tend to our mental health as much as our physical health.

Coping with Loneliness at Home

Despite loosened restrictions, some families are deciding to stay at home to avoid exposure to COVID-19, especially the Delta variant. Even with widely available vaccines, many Americans are still choosing not to get vaccinated. Because of this fact, attending family gatherings or birthday parties with friends becomes risky since it’s hard to know who has received the shot without asking to see their vaccine card for verification. This means many are once again separating from loved ones to protect themselves, their children, and others.

“This can be a challenge for some,” says Rodney Villanueva, MD, FAPA, psychiatrist at Atrium Health. “Most of us are not used to such a secluded lifestyle, and that can make people anxious and depressed. It can be difficult to do this all over again.”

It can be especially difficult to distance yourself when others are not practicing the same precautions as you with fewer restrictions currently in place. But your decision doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected to your loved ones.  

“It’s important to connect virtually with family members during this time, to check in on our loved ones with a phone call or video chat more frequently than usual these days,” he says. “For those that do not have family members, there are several different resources that could be helpful such as neighborhood social groups or nonprofit organizations to connect with others who may be feeling the same way.”

If you struggle to shake the feeling of loneliness at home, Dr. Villanueva has a few tips and tricks that might help your mental health:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend checking the news and social media about COVID-19It’s definitely important to be informed on essential information such as how to properly engage in social distancing, hand and environmental hygiene, but by looking at these things too frequently it can become counterproductive and actually cause more anxiety.
  • Keep up with your daily routine as much as possibleWake up at the same time, get dressed, eat meals at regular times and get outside to exercise if possible. If you plan to go out into the world for a change of scenery, you should consider masking up to protect yourself and others – even if you are vaccinated.
  • Reframe the situationMany people think of it as ‘being stuck at home.’ But use this as an opportunity to engage in new activities and check off long-awaited projects.
  • Reach out to your mental health professional virtuallyMany places are converting to virtual care and you are still able to speak to someone.

We’re All in This Together

You might be feeling frustrated that COVID-19 cases are back on the rise after distancing ourselves from social interactions for more than a year. It can be especially difficult to get a taste of normalcy as stay-at-home orders and restrictions were lifted. But with everyone’s cooperation, we can overcome this.

While socially distancing and wearing a mask are great safety practices, your best line of defense is vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccine is available and safe for everyone ages 12 and older. Visit our resource hub online to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines and schedule an appointment.

It’s also important to not shun your loved ones, coworkers, and friends for contracting COVID-19. There’s a difference between seclusion and socially distancing. Don’t detach them from all communications and make sure to keep a sense of community. Bring them books, newspapers, flowers, or food. Help them stay motivated which will also help their recovery.

How Deep Breathing and Prayer Can Help You Meaningfully Get Through Anxiety

Chaplain David Carl, executive director of spiritual care and education at Atrium Health, says there is something very simple anyone can do to help: Breathe!

“We know breath work is vitally important to our wellbeing,” Chaplain Carl says. “Do deep breathing — in through our nose and out through our mouths, maybe to the count of three for several minutes. But then to add a prayer to that; make it a breath prayer. With deep breathing by itself more oxygen gets transmitted to every cell of our body. If you do deep breathing for a half hour, you’ll notice tingling in your hands and maybe other parts of your body. That’s because oxygen is getting somewhere it hasn’t been to in a long time.”

“Then to make it a breath prayer, we might attach something to the breath that’s meaningful to us like the lyrics of a favorite song, sacred writing, a poem, perhaps a prayer like the Serenity Prayer. So, as we breathe in, in our minds’ eye we would say to ourselves: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Then as we breathe out: The courage to change the things that I can. As we breathe in again: And the wisdom to know the difference. And as we breathe out: Amen.” Repeat this several times if possible.

The Breath Prayer has the benefit of centering ourselves, calming ourselves, and connecting to something larger than ourselves.

Identify. Understand. Respond.

If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, call Atrium Health’s 24/7 Behavioral Health Help Line at 704-444-2400 to speak with a licensed professional.

Other tips that may help yourself and others:

  • Treat individuals with respect and dignityListen non-judgmentally and respect their right to privacy and confidentiality.
  • Offer consistent emotional supportSmall acts of compassion may make a world of a difference. Practice empathy and patience.
  • Maintain household routinesTasks such as personal hygiene, household chores and taking care of your pets may feel that much harder when a person’s routine is out of sorts.
  • Give individuals hope. Hope can help make recovery feel possible.
  • Provide practical helpIf possible, offer to help with tasks that may feel overwhelming, such as driving a friend to the grocery store.
  • Offer informationProvide credible information and resources that may help individuals find professional support and self-help.

Behavioral Health Resources:

  1.  For 24/7 mental health crisis support, call Atrium Health’s Behavioral Health Help Line at 704-444-2400.
  2. Stress and Coping [CDC]