Mental Health and the Coronavirus: What You Should Know

By Nancy Flory Published on April 8, 2020

“It’s all normal,” the nurse told me. “Try to get outside a couple of times per day. That will help.” I’d just described how I was feeling down and stressed. I’d thought the coronavirus outbreak wasn’t affecting me. I was doing pretty good. But then Monday hit. And I felt overwhelmed.

My 6-year-old woke up crying from a dream recently: I was gone and he’d never be able to see me again. I can’t help wondering if he dreamed that because he hears the news reports’ increasingly dire information each day.

It isn’t just the two of us. Last month, the “Disaster Distress Helpline” at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration had an 891% increase in calls over March 2019, ABC News reported.

The CDC reports that stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

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

As we work through the coronavirus situation, we should keep a few things in mind.

God is Still in Control

God is still in control. He has not abdicated His throne. He tells us not to worry, because: 1) God will care for us, and 2) worrying will not add any time to our lives. It does nothing for us. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes,” Jesus tells us.

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? — Luke 12:22-26

Dr. Gregg Jantz, founder of The Center: A Place of Hope, told The Stream that people have got to remember “Who our strong tower is.” The author of Healing Depression for Life said our faith must be “the foundation … when I say the strong tower, I think of the verse, ‘The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe,’ and the keyword is safe. So I think we’ve got to remember Who that is and what that is.”

Take Care of Yourself

One in five people suffer from depression said Jantz. The Center’s mission is to help people with mental health and other issues.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression is the number one disability in the world among people ages 15 to 44. People with other disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, are experiencing more symptoms,” he said.

Jantz suggests a few practical things to do that will help. “Keep your water levels up,” he advises, because people who are depressed and anxious tend not to drink water. Also, “keep your sleep cycle and hygiene up. … Go out every day, a couple of times, 20 minutes. Get up and exercise.” Movement is really important.

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The CDC suggests taking a break from watching, reading or listening to news stories. An overload of news on coronavirus can be upsetting, especially for those who already have illnesses.

Stay in touch with others, Jantz added. “We need to remember that social distancing is not social isolation. We need to be sure that we’re still connecting to be sure we’re not sliding into self-destructive behavior.” That could mean turning to alcohol or overeating. “It’s easy when we isolate to fall into self-destructive behavior.”

Don’t Panic — This Too Shall Pass

Although it’s tough, we’ve got to walk the line between taking precautions and overreacting. Although we should take precautions such as washing our hands and maintaining distance between ourselves and others, there’s another response.

“I think if we’re letting panic control us, we’re overreacting,” Jantz explained. A better response to the coronavirus is looking at it as a season to help others. “I think the greatest thing is we look for an opportunity. Who’s the one person today that I can touch? Who’s the one person today that I can be a resource to?”

And we have to remember that this is temporary. “I think we’re always building a foundation of hope and that this is a season we need to remember this coronavirus is a season, it has a beginning. Maybe we’re in the middle, but it definitely has an end.”

 

Nancy Flory is an associate editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

CALL TO ACTION:

COVID-19 is causing massive disruptions in life. The Stream’s parent organization, LIFE Outreach International is helping send a first wave of help.

LIFE’s local Mission Partners are already distributing thousands of surgical masks, gloves and other sanitary supplies to first responders, hospitals and nursing homes. In addition, other partners have focused on distributing as many meals as possible to help those who need food.

You can help with these efforts. Click here to donate.

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