Minding Your Mental Health in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Minding Your Mental Health in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr. Jay-Sheree Allen, Guest Contributor

Suppose you are driving on the interstate in wintry conditions and you end up in a very deep ditch. No matter how much you press on the gas pedal — you’re not getting out. When this happens, you need help, in the form of a tow truck and emergency responders. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to drive again. It just means that at this moment, you are in a deep ditch and you need some help. 

I am a Family Medicine Physician and that’s how I approach difficult conversations surrounding mental health with my patients.

With this pandemic causing numerous deaths worldwide, a significant disruption in our daily routines, loss of income and cancellation of special events, it will inevitably impact the state of our mental health.

This has already been demonstrated with a significant increase in the prescriptions filled for anxiety, depression and sleeping disorders and millions of Americans who have filed for unemployment. We therefore need to acknowledge that this is a stressful time and will affect us all in different ways.

Be mindful of the ways in which this increased stress regarding this pandemic can show up in your daily lives:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

It is therefore important to take care of yourself and your community:

  • Continue to follow guidelines from your trusted health professionals
  • Take breaks from watching or reading news stories
  • Limit your use of social media if it’s causing you to feel overwhelmed
  • Take care of your body
    • Take deep breaths, exercise or meditate
    • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Try to do some safe activities you enjoy that still allow you to maintain your social distance
  • Connect with others and talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

I will say; however, that lifestyle interventions are great — but they sometimes aren’t enough. In those cases, we recommend therapy, medications or maybe even a referral to a specialist for more treatment options.

On the interstate in wintry conditions, the goal is to get the car out of the ditch and get you to safety. Similarly a treatment plan is meant to get you back to your best state of mental health, again.

Sources:

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/economy/unemployment-benefits-coronavirus/index.html

https://www.express-scripts.com/corporate/americas-state-of-mind-report

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

Dr. Jay-Sheree Allen is a Board-Certified Family Medicine Physician and National Health Service Corps Scholar currently practicing in an underserved clinic and critical access hospital in Central Minnesota. She completed her residency training at the Mayo Clinic. While there, she was as a member of the Mayo Clinic Alumni Association Board of Directors and the President of the Mayo Fellows Association. She graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville Tennessee and was the recipient of the Family Medicine Leadership Award. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Magna Cum Laude, from The City College of the City University of New York where she was a Colin Powell Fellow.

She founded Women of Excellence, Strength & Tenacity (WEST) an organization dedicated to empowering young women to live up to their highest potential. She continues to support philanthropic efforts in medicine, through volunteering locally and abroad.

She is committed to improving the health of our generation, both locally and globally, through the promotion and practice of primary care and preventative medicine. Recognizing the power of media, to deliver relevant and timely health messages outside of the confines of a limited clinic appointment, she has published numerous articles with ABC News in New York City as a Medical Journalism Intern and has recorded multiple episodes for CentraCare’s Your Health podcast.

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