How COVID-19 Can Compromise Your Mental Health, And What You Can Do About It

The entire world is facing new challenges as we battle the Coronoa Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, relationally, and every which way in-between.  From a psychological standpoint, this pandemic has contributed to mental health stressors for many individuals such as worry, stress, sadness, and substance abuse (including drugs, alcohol, and over-eating); and has also exacerbated pre-existing mental health conditions for others such as depression and anxiety.  There are various factors stemming from COVID-19 that are contributing to this current rise in mental health issues and substance abuse related issues.  Fortunately, there are still ways to take care of your mental health and navigate the current crisis from the comfort of your own home during quarantine.


As individuals transition to working from home, keeping their children home for homeschooling, and have government restrictions placed on going outside, we find ourselves in an increasingly isolated state.  While many individuals may find solace in the comfort and quietness within their own home (although for those with young children or family conflict this may not be the case) and/or in being able to spend more time with their families, there are also those who live alone, have limited and/or toxic family relationships or friendships, and who are distraught by not being able to have their usual face-to-face support systems in place.  For the latter, it is important to be aware that isolation is highly correlated with an increase in mental health issues such as depression.  As such, it is incredibly important to have someone to talk to on a regular basis, be it a family member, friend, or a therapist.  When speaking with someone, it is much better to use virtual technology that allows you to see the other person’s face such as FaceTime, Skype or Zoom as these platforms enhance the social experience and make it as real as human-to-human contact as one can have without being in the same place at the same time.


The current state of affairs has also resulted in an increased sense of fear and worry as individuals grow concerned about their own physical health and the health of their loved ones, as well as fear and worry about their careers, finances, and overall national and global economic concerns.  These anxieties are usually only heightened when one reads or turns on the news.  In such times, it is important to remember what you are and are not in control of, and do your best to accept the situation and control what you can.  In addition to washing hands and taking care of physical hygiene during this time, don’t forget to also take proper hygiene of your mental health as well (strategies for mental health hygiene are explored in more detail below).  These are things that ARE in your control.


It is important to be mindful of any exacerbated fears or worries, and to remember that while the current crisis is serious, that the vast majority of individuals will physically be okay, and that jobs and the economy will return in time.  In other words, see the problem for what it is, but not worse than it is.  Always remember that this situation is temporary.  Also try view the positives of the situation, such as more time to spend with family or more time to spend on self-care.  If one is experiencing severe worries or anxieties that are difficult to manage or that are negatively impacting one’s life, it is highly encouraged to speak with a therapist, most of whom offer teletherapy (also commonly referred to as telehealth, telemedicine, telepsychiatry, video therapy, or online therapy) services during this time.


While it is easy to turn to food, drugs, alcohol, gaming, social media or watching television (especially news) during this time, it is important to be aware if you are consuming too much of anything or engaging in these activities too frequently.  Abuse or misuse of any of these habits can lead to a progression of addiction that can lead to severe problems that are not easy to recover from, such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia as well as health problems such as weight gain.  The first step to dealing with any problem is awareness that there is a problem, and then taking the necessary actions to deal with them.  For many, it is helpful to set a schedule and have a daily routine which can designate times for meals and snacks, doing work, spending time with loved ones, exercising, and screen time (news, Netflix, social media, etc.).


Unlike serious medical issues that require surgery, mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, addiction, or other such issues, can be dealt with from the comfort of your own home.  While face-to-face therapies are usually preferred, teletherapy is a great alternative.  Most therapists will service their clients through teletherapy, and if your therapist does not or if you don’t already have a therapist, simply do an online search for a therapist that provides teletherapy services in your area.  Furthermore, there are also simple and practical things you can do on your own if you are struggling with a mental health issue such as journaling, meditating, exercising, eating well, engaging in self-care habits, and talking with a family member or friend.


Life during the Coronavirus is not easy, but it does not mean that your mental health has to fall to the wayside.  Although most of us are currently living an increasingly isolated and worrisome new reality for the time being, we can still prioritize our own well-being.  In fact, one can argue that there is no better time to focus on yourself than now.  Be intentional with your time and utilize the time that might otherwise be spent commuting to and from work on your mental health.  Be sure to see the positive of the situation, there is a silver lining in all of this.  Remember that this current situation is temporary and reach out to a therapist if you are in need of support and guidance.


For more information or to inquire about our private concierge therapy services and/or our teletherapy (online therapy/virtual therapy) please contact our undisclosed therapy office location in the Upper East Side of New York City today at (929) 220-2912.

Lin Sternlicht & Aaron Sternlicht

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