While coronavirus continues to take center stage in today’s news cycle, our daily routines and everyday conversations, we understand it can be overwhelming for many. That’s why Atrium Health experts encourage people to take care of their mental health – making time to feel happy and calm. Find resources here to help cope with the mental health challenges during this pandemic.

Coronavirus Updates, Your Health | 6 months ago

Staying Strong During the Pandemic Isn’t Just About Lifting Weights, It’s About Your Mind as Well

While coronavirus continues to take center stage in today’s news cycle, our daily routines and everyday conversations, we understand it can be overwhelming for many. That’s why Atrium Health experts encourage people to take care of their mental health – making time to feel happy and calm. Find resources here to help cope with the mental health challenges during this pandemic.

With the number of COVID-19 cases still present throughout the United States, anxiety and fear are continuing to affect our communities. The uncertainty, drastic change and 24-hour news cycle coverage on this in our lives — the stress we are experiencing right now — exasperates it all. As we try to adapt to our new normal during the pandemic, it becomes 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, many families are remaining at home as much as possible to avoid exposure to COVID-19. This means many are separated from loved ones.

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

But while it can be challenging, we are lucky to have many ways to stay connected with loved ones, and can even use this time at home as an opportunity to pick up a new hobby or use it as an excuse to finally do that household chore that you’ve been putting off for so long.

“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-19. It’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 possible. Wake up at the same time, get dressed, eat meals at regular times and get outside to exercise if possible. Even with our stay-at-home orders, we are able to go for a walk outdoors, as long as we remain mindful to stay 6-feet apart from others.
  • Reframe the situation. Many people think of being stuck at home as a terrible thing. But use this as an opportunity to do activities and long-awaited projects.
  • Reach out to your mental health professional virtually. Many places are converting to virtual care and you are still able to speak to someone.

We’re All in This Together

Most of us are feeling the impact of distancing ourselves from social interactions, but it's important to avoid shunning. The ‘I don’t want to get whatever they’ve got. I want to keep me and my family safe’ thinking is a natural tendency. However, it’s important to go past that mindset and understand this loved one, person, family, friend, is still in need of somebody that cares and somebody that’s going to be compassionate. Keep safe, keep hand hygiene and droplet precautions, but also make sure they’re not secluded, that they’re still having connections. Lift their spirits, because there is a difference between seclusion and social distancing. We want to make sure they’re not detached from all communications, still a part of the community. Bring them books, bring them newspapers, bring them flowers, bring them food. Help them stay motivated because that’s also going to 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.
Here are some helpful tips on how to help cope with these feelings using the ALGEE action plan from the Mental Health First Aid program:

  • A: Assess for risk of suicide of harm
  • L: Listen non-judgmentally
  • G: Give reassurance and information
  • E: Encourage appropriate professional help
  • E: Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Other tips that may help yourself and others:

  • Treat individuals with respect and dignity. Listen non-judgmentally and respect their right to privacy and confidentiality.
  • Offer consistent emotional support. Small acts of compassion may make a world of a difference. Practice empathy and patience.
  • Maintain Household routines. Tasks 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 help. If possible, offer to help with tasks that may feel overwhelming, such as driving a friend to the grocery store.
  • Offer information. Provide credible information and resources that may help individuals find professional support and self-help.

Behavioral Health Resources:

1) Atrium Health’s 24/7 Behavioral Health Help Line: 704-444-2400
2) Stress and Coping [CDC]