The Impact Of COVID On Mental Health And Helpful Coping Techniques

by Jay Valdez, Psy. D.

Since the start of the COVID pandemic, there has been a significant increase in people feeling anxious, depressed, isolated, hopeless, and uncertain about the future.

A national survey indicated that anxiety and depression went up 41%. Another survey showed that rates of reported anxiety and depression went up from 1 in 10 people to 4 in 10 during COVID. Additionally, the rate of substance abuse, domestic violence, and suicidality has also increased.

Signs That You Need Help
You are often worried about many things. You are afraid of leaving home or going out into public or being around lots of people. You experience panic attacks and shortness of breath, feeling sad, hopeless and helpless.

You feel bad about yourself, feeling like you are a failure or let your family down. You are sleeping more or less than the recommended hours. You have lost interest/motivation in daily activities including those that you enjoyed in the past.

You feel numb or not caring about the consequences. You are eating more and/or bingeing on junk foods. You are drinking more alcohol and using more drugs.

You are having difficulty concentrating and focusing. You feel more irritable or quick to anger and have more arguments with your spouse or loved ones. You are having mood fluctuations and thoughts of hurting yourself and/or ending your life.

The following coping techniques may help you.

1. Calm your mind by meditating such as playing relaxation music, using a relaxation app, watching relaxation videos on Youtube, listening to a podcast, listening to a book, reading a book, doing a walking meditation, going to church, praying, and being part of a church fellowship.

2. Calm your body by doing proper breathing exercises. Breathing exercises tell the brain to relax the body. Proper breathing exercises start with diaphragmatic breathing or stomach breathing.

Here is a simple technique: find a comfortable sitting position, inhale slowly through your nose for 4-6 seconds, feeling your stomach rise as you feel your chest fill with fresh air.  Hold for 5 seconds and slowly exhale through your mouth with your lips pursed (like you are kissing someone), and feel your stomach fall as the air is being released.  Another variation is to skip holding your breath for 5 seconds. Practice as often as possible.

3. Make a list of things you can be grateful for. Our minds have the tendency to remember and hold on to negative events. A gratuity list helps our mind balance our negative thoughts with positive ones. It may also help us look at our lives from a more realistic perspective.

Other healthy coping techniques include journaling, light stretching, light exercise, healthy eating, calling a friend, helping others, watching a funny or inspiring movie, cleaning your house, car, or yard, gardening, and keeping yourself busy and staying on a routine schedule.

If you are still struggling, please call your doctor. If you are in crisis, call CARES Hawaii at 808 832-3100, Crisis Text Line at text MHA to 741741, Crisis Helpline at 808 832-3100/800 753-6879 or 911.

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