By Bradford Mason
With a growing number of people contracting coronavirus, non-stop news coverage and even isolations in some cases, experts say fears and anxiety about COVID-19 are having an impact on mental health.
According to the nonprofit organization Mental Health America (MHA), mental health screeners nationwide have screened with a severe anxiety result in the month since the coronavirus worry began to emerge.
“Severe anxiety is a significant health concern and it cannot be dismissed simply as ‘worry’ that will pass on its own,” Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of MHA. “Severe anxiety is a clinical condition that should trigger prompt and professional treatment and support.”
MHA compared screening data from the first six weeks of 2020 – before worry about the virus took hold – to data collected from mid-February through March 15. On average, 126 people per day screened for severe anxiety during the first six weeks of the year. This number grew to 152 per day during the last two weeks in February and to 169 per day during the first two weeks of March.
So, what’s the best way to quell anxiety about coronavirus? MHA says taking these steps can help:
- Use your smart phone to stay connected to family and friends. Shift from texting to voice or video calling to feel more connected.
- Keep comfortable. Do the things you already enjoy doing at home; just do more of them.
- Practice stress relief whenever you feel anxiety building – do some deep breathing, exercise, read, dig in the garden, eat some ice cream – whatever works for you.
- Don’t do anything you’d consider to be unhealthy for you, such as excess drinking – that will just increase your anxiety afterwards.
- Keep looking forward. Make some plans for six months down the road.
“The virus will likely ebb in time, and we hope that physically things will probably be back to normal in a few weeks or months – even for most of those who get COVID-19,” Gionfriddo said. “But the mental effects will linger for those who lose loved ones and for those whose anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other serious conditions are left untreated. We will pay a price if we don’t take all of this seriously from the start.”