The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed life as we know it. Now, the majority of Americans are working from home, many states have issued stay at home orders, and the massive movement to socially distance has brought shock and isolation to our daily lives. As the virus and the uncertainty of the future continues to spread, what can you do to manage mental health, grief, and even addiction during this difficult time?
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DoctorOz.com spoke to psychologist Dr. Juhee Jhalani to find out the best ways to do this for the foreseeable future of the pandemic. From learning to adjust and manage your mindset to learning to control what you can, here are her recommendations:
Control What You Can
The restrictions COVID-19 imposed on daily life may have caused your routine to go out the window. But Dr. Jhalani says that maintaining a routine is essential during this time.
Since you no longer have the kind of structure you’re used to, it’s important to make a new routine. Keep up with personal hygiene, get dressed for work (even at home), eat healthy, and remember to drink enough water. You should also try to stay active, by scheduling a walk outside or an indoor workout in your day, and maintain your bedtime and wake up time as if you had to get up and commute into the office. All of these things can make your days feel a bit more normal, despite everything around you changing which can be beneficial to your overall well being.
Manage Your Mindset
Forty-five percent of adults say that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health according to a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. This statistic seems to make sense in relation to the social distancing that has been ordered by local governments to stop the spread. As a result of distancing measures, social isolation can happen.
“There are serious mental and physical side effects of social isolation,” says Dr. Jhalani. These can include heightened risks of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, obesity, cognitive decline and even a compromised immune system. While there’s no immediate cause for alarm (those risks may occur over serious stretches of time), there are tools to help ease the strain of social distancing to feel closer to people that you can’t physically see.
“Address [your] social isolation by staying socially connected in today’s digital age via emails, telephone, text, online video chats, and apps. Carve out time every day in your schedule for social connection,” recommends Dr. Jhalani.
If you feel like therapy may be what you need to work through your feelings, you can get the help you need virtually. If you already have a therapist talk to him or her about continuing sessions virtually. If you don’t have one, research therapists to find one that’s right for you on websites like Psychology Today and ZocDoc. Whether you’re just starting or continuing therapy, Dr. Jhalani recommends “HIPAA-compliant platforms” to protect your privacy — these are video therapy sessions and calls that follow medical privacy and security rules to protect your information. Some platforms, like therapy apps, may not be HIPAA-compliant, so Jhalani recommends doing your research beforehand.
If you are unable to afford therapy, Dr. Jhalani says talking to someone you trust is another way to gain perspective on your mental health. She also recommends looking into your insurance. Some commercial insurance plans may waive costs for phone and televideo sessions, which could make the cost more manageable. Some states, like New York, are even providing free mental health services and resources. Take a look online to see if your state is offering similar programs during the pandemic. Things like journaling, keeping up with daily tasks, and working to make life as normal as possible — including taking any medication you are prescribed — are also important to maintain