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Managing the mental and emotional toll of COVID-19

COVID-19 has taken its toll on our mental health. From the stress of social distancing, to concerns about the well-being of ourselves and loved ones, to worries over lost wages and the complicated balance of work and caregiving, people of all ages are feeling fear, stress, isolation and loneliness.

Researchers tracking the mental and emotional effects of COVID-19 are seeing the emergence of a behavioral health crisis in the U.S.

  • According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), more than 42 percent of people reported they had symptoms of anxiety or depression during the month of December 2020—an increase of 11 percent from the previous year.
  • In a separate CDC rapid-response survey, nearly 12 percent reported unmet mental health care needs between August 2020 and February 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • Studies consistently show that young people are most vulnerable to increased distress, perhaps because of their greater need for social interactions. Young women appear to be more vulnerable than young men, and people with young children, or a previously diagnosed psychiatric disorder, are at particularly high risk for mental health problems. ​
  • Individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 are at high risk for developing behavioral health issues such as anxiety, depression and dementia. In addition to the mental toll of isolating, COVID-19 “long haulers” sometimes endure symptoms that can interfere with daily life, such as short-term memory loss, confusion and the inability to concentrate.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and help reduce the stigma so many experience. And this year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever make mental health a priority and acknowledge that it’s okay to not be okay.

Anxiety symptoms

For all of us, fear and worry are common. But too much can be detrimental to your mental and physical health. Symptoms of severe anxiety include:

  • Excessive worry occurring more days than not for at least six months 
  • Distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of everyday life 
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue or frequently feeling tired
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

Depression symptoms

  • Feeling sad or down is also normal. But when it continues for days or weeks, it could be something more serious. Symptoms and changes caused by depression include: 
  • Feeling down or depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Diminished interest in activities you once enjoyed 
  • Significant changes in your weight (increased or decreased)
  • Difficulty with sleep (insomnia or hypersomnia)
  • Fatigue or frequently feeling tired
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death over at least a two-week period
  • Impairment in social, occupational or other important areas

Coping with stress

Feelings of stress, anxiety, worry and grief are natural during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are healthy ways to reduce the burden, and help our loved ones do the same.

  • Get the COVID-19 vaccine. Being vaccinated not only protects you from the virus, it enables you to get back to doing some of the things you stopped because of the pandemic. 

  • Continue to follow CDC mask recommendations and social distancing guidelines. Being with friends and loved ones is important. Just make sure you’re doing it safely.
  • Get active. Regular physical activity can lift your mood and alleviate anxiety and help with memory and heart health.
  • Find time to leave the chaos behind. Carve out time each day for yoga, stretching, meditation, deep breathing or other relaxation rituals.
  • Stay connected. Depending on where you live, communities are relaxing restrictions. That means more opportunities to connect with others, especially if you’re outdoors and fully vaccinated. And while we’re all feeling Zoom fatigue, it’s important to be in touch virtually when it’s not safe to meet in person.

    Set up group chats with friends and family, volunteer virtually with an organization you love or check out other online opportunities to keep in touch.
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. A healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on the body.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Eliminate late-night screen time, and avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime. The CDC offers more tips for better sleep.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and substance use. Occasional use from time to time is okay, but it shouldn’t be a coping mechanism.
  • Keep on top of routine preventative health care, such as annual exams, vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc., as recommended by your health care provider.
  • Take a screen break. It’s good to be informed, but pandemic overload can be upsetting. Try to disconnect from the phone, tv and computer for a while.
  • Check in with family, friends and neighbors. It’s not always easy to ask for help. If someone is privately struggling with anxiety or depression, a simple check-in call or kind gesture can be lifechanging.

Don’t wait for help for anxiety and depression

It’s best to talk to with a professional health care provider when:

  • You find it difficult to function in your daily life
  • You no longer participate in activities you once enjoyed
  • You find it difficult to get out of bed

You don’t have to wait for care. If you or a loved one are struggling emotionally,  Indigo Online Care can help. We offer screenings for anxiety and depression for adults 18 and older.

Simply complete a quick questionnaire (typically 5-7 minutes) and get connected with a trusted Indigo clinician via video to talk about a care plan and treatment options—all from the comfort of home.

If necessary, your provider can prescribe medication or refills.  Video visits are offered every day from 8 am to 9 pm. Most insurances are accepted. If you don’t have insurance, the cost is $99.  

If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seek emergency treatment immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) is available to anyone in severe distress.

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