The fear of contracting the coronavirus and the fear of the unknown consequences if you do contract the virus is placing many people under a great deal of stress. In addition to the fear of contracting the virus, many worry about transmitting the virus to family members over 65 or family members who have preexisting medical conditions. Adding to this stress is the fact that you may have the virus and not have any symptoms. Therefore, you may have the virus, feel fine and be transmitting the virus to numerous people because you are unaware that you have the virus. Normally, people could be tested to find out if they have a virus or medical condition that is contagious. However, in the situation we are currently in, we do not have the option of getting tested for the virus. Therefore, you have to live with the uncertainty.
Besides the worry and stress about contracting the coronavirus, we also must deal with the quarantine. Our everyday lives have been turned upside down. Many of us are not able to see loved ones and friends like we usually would do. Furthermore, many people cannot work and are worrying about how they are going to pay their bills and buy food. This is another stressor for us and that is food. Many of us are going to grocery stores finding the shelves empty. People are hoarding food even toilet paper because they are afraid stores may close or stores will not be able to get merchandise anymore. Finally, being stuck living with the same people day after day without a break from each other causes stress and arguments.
The Mayo Clinic has been studying the impact that the virus and quarantine have on us and our mental health. Here is what they found:
Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it’s normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. But multiple challenges daily, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope.
Many people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. And feelings may change over time.
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping or you may struggle to face routine chores.
When these signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, make you miserable and cause problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it’s time to ask for help.
Get help when you need it
Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you’re doing. To get help you may want to:
• Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.
• Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
• Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counseling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional.
• Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments.
• Contact organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help and guidance.
If you’re feeling suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself, seek help. Contact your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Or call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
Continue your self-care strategies
You can expect your current strong feelings to fade when the pandemic is over, but stress won’t disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Continue these self-care practices to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life’s ongoing challenges.
In addition to the facts above, people who have the virus have been reporting feeling anxious and depressed. They have also reported the virus has impaired their ability to make decisions. The bottom line the virus is creating mental health issues for those dealing with the quarantine, first responders, medical personnel and people with the virus. We are focusing on getting the virus under control which we must do. However, after we get control of the virus, we will need to address the mental health issues created by this pandemic. At this point, we have no idea how many will need mental health care and for how long. Therefore, as we focus on finding a cure, we may want to start to prepare for the mental health issues which will occur after the quarantine.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating trauma victims and teenagers. For more information about his work or his private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.