Coronavirus (COVID-19) College Update – Nov 17: Bear River Health Department on Dealing with Stress, Anxiety, and Mental Health Issues

Our world can feel chaotic and unpredictable.  We may struggle at times to make sense of seemingly endless unexpected events.  As we are bombarded by information that we cannot always trust, trying to plan and protect ourselves and those we love is tricky.  We feel tension when we feel like we are asked to incorporate information that doesn’t match our expectations.

Between global health concerns, political strife, environmental shifts, and social unrest, we can feel adrift without a safe harbor. At the Bear River Health Department, we have seen mental health referrals and therapeutic sessions double in the last year.   While it is important to note that normal levels of stress can prompt change and even encourage growth, when it begins to cause dysfunction in ones’ life, it becomes a problem.

The CDC has listed the following as fairly common concerns resulting from the current pandemic:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services that you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficult sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.

Creating patterns of healthy behavior that enable better coping is a part of good therapy.  Some of the activities that help people cope include:

  • Counseling – talking with a professional can be a relief and may open doors to insight and choices that improve relationships and behaviors. Just talking with someone you trust can help.
  • Exercise and a healthy diet – getting sufficient physical activity and rest, and avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol has been found to improve sleep, improve affect, and rational decision making.
  • Medications – considerate use of appropriate medications either to correct long-term problems or temporarily address worries can be done under medical supervision and improve outcomes for some people. We caution people to avoid or be very careful with intake of caffeine, alcohol, or illegal drugs.
  • Self-help – there are quite a few reading resources and even several apps that can help with mindfulness and meditation exercises that keep people focused on the present and avoid retreating to the past or being distracted by worry about the future.
  • Take a break – media and world influences as well as pressures from family and work may need to be placed on the back burner. Plan time for yourself and take regular time to reconnect to passions and hobbies.
  • Challenge negative thought – live in the present vs. the future or past.