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Dr. Michael Day
Q&A With a Clinical Psychologist

5 questions about mental health during the pandemic answered by an expert - NIH
COVID-19 and your mental health - Mayo Clinic
Protecting your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic - John Hopkins
Frequently Asked Questions About Mental Health - Maryland Department of Health (16 page PDF)
Frequently asked questions - Mental Health Commission of Canada
Pandemics can be stressful - CDC


5 questions about mental health during the pandemic answered by an expert - NIH

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases in the U.S. and stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders continue, the coronavirus pandemic is also causing a strain on mental health.

PBS NewsHour senior national correspondent Amna Nawaz spoke with Dr. Joshua Gordon about the best ways to mitigate stress during the pandemic. Gordon is the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders.

What can you do to take care of yourself?

In this period of isolation and anxiety, Gordon recommends staying on top of three key things in an effort to protect your mental health: Take care of your body, take care of your mind and maintain your social connections.

A helpful way to stay mentally healthy is to make sure the rest of your body is healthy, which means opting for healthy meals and trying to exercise each day. Gordon says taking walks can be beneficial to your health, as long as you maintain social distancing while outside.

It’s often difficult to know the appropriate amount of anxiety you should be feeling.

Gordon suggests asking yourself: “Are you doing the things you need to do?”

Some examples: Can you still buy groceries and make food? Can you take care of your kids? Can you get up at a normal time in the morning? If so, then you’re probably doing okay, he said. If not, it’s prudent to seek help, either from your support systems, or from professionals.

Being purposeful about maintaining your social connections can serve to be helpful during this time of social distancing. “Connecting with people around you can really help,” Gordon said.

What can you do to take care of others?

Even before the pandemic hit, about 20% of Americans had experienced, or were experiencing, some form of depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Any kind of stress can exacerbate any kind of mental illnesses,” Gordon said.

Because of this, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on your friends and family who may have a history of suicidal ideation or self harm.

If you think someone might be in trouble, Gordon advises to just “reach out and ask.”

Many believe even asking a person if they’ve been thinking about self harm can be damaging, but that’s not the case, according to Gordon.

If they confirm your suspicions, it’s helpful to guide them towards calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 ir text the Crisis Text Line. Text "SOS" to 741741.You can even reach out yourself to receive guidance and tips for how to help others.

What do you do when a loved one has passed in the midst of this pandemic?

For many, the pain of a death is only compounded by the inability to grieve with others because of the pandemic.

In these times, Gordon says it’s especially important to seek help among your community, support systems and trusted professionals.

“Depression is something you want to deal with right away,” he said.

He said to consider what others have already done and hold a virtual wake for those who have passed. This could also be a time to join or begin organizing a community-wide ceremony in honor of those who have passed, when it is safe enough.

“We can anticipate that this will end,” without knowing when, Gordon said.

How do you deal with the disturbing information coming in?

As many of us remain glued to our devices, watching the stream of terrible news and images come through, Gordon recommends some ways to maintain good mental health.

“Focus on facts … so you’re not getting carried away by rumor and opinion,” he said.

He also suggests we “take a break from those images” by turning off the news an hour before sleep, focusing on meditation, spending time with loved ones or reading from a physical book.

Besides avoiding the news when it gets too much to bear, Gordon also recommends “reframing” the images we see. The pictures of hospital workers show commendable heroism, and all the disturbing images of people wearing masks show how diligent the world has become in taking care of each other.

“Just that act of cognitively reframing the image in a positive way can be helpful.” Gordon said.

How do you help kids during the pandemic?

Children are also deeply affected by the abrupt and scary changes in their lives.

Gordon says the most important thing to do right now is find out what’s going on in their heads.

“Don’t assume that what you’re worried about is what your kids are worried about,” he said.

That way, it becomes easier to address their concerns.

For young children, it’s especially important to maintain structure since “a lot of their lives are already disrupted.”

Maintaining regular eating habits (breakfast, lunch and dinner), finding time for recreation together and making sure they stay on track with school work, let’s kids know that “things have changed, but things are okay.”

If you are having thoughts of suicide, go to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or Text "SOS" to 741741


Pandemics can be stressful - CDC

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

  • Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:
  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.
  • hand holding heart light icon

Take care of your mental health

You may experience increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions.

Get immediate help in a crisis

Find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations

How you respond to stress during the COVID-19 pandemic can depend on your background, your social support from family or friends, your financial situation, your health and emotional background, the community you live in, and many other factors. The changes that can happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways we try to contain the spread of the virus can affect anyone.

People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include:

Take care of yourself and your community

Taking care of your friends and your family can be a stress reliever, but it should be balanced with care for yourself. Helping others cope with their stress, such as by providing social support, can also make your community stronger. During times of increased social distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health. Phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel socially connected, less lonely, or isolated.

Healthy ways to cope with stress

  • Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19. Contact a health professional before you start any self-treatment for COVID-19.
  • Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
  • Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

Know the facts to help reduce stress

Knowing the facts about COVID-19 and stopping the spread of rumors can help reduce stress and stigma. Understanding the risk to yourself and people you care about can help you connect with others and make an outbreak less stressful.

Take care of your mental health

Mental health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It may also affect how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices during an emergency.

People with pre-existing mental health conditions or substance use disorders may be particularly vulnerable in an emergency. Mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia) affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior in a way that influences their ability to relate to others and function each day. These conditions may be situational (short-term) or long-lasting (chronic). People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. If you think you have new or worse symptoms, call your healthcare provider.

Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. Free and confidential resources can also help you or a loved one connect with a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

Get immediate help in a crisis

Find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health


Different life experiences affect a person’s risk for suicide. For example, suicide risk is higher among people who have experienced violence, including child abuse, bullying, or sexual violence. Feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and other emotional or financial stresses are known to raise the risk for suicide. People may be more likely to experience these feelings during a crisis like a pandemic.

However, there are ways to protect against suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For example, support from family and community, or feeling connected, and having access to in-person or virtual counseling or therapy can help with suicidal thoughts and behavior, particularly during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more about CDC’s work in suicide prevention.

Other Resources:

Recovering from COVID-19 or ending home isolation

It can be stressful to be separated from others if you have or were exposed to COVID-19. Each person ending a period of home isolation may feel differently about it.

Emotional reactions may include:

  • Mixed emotions, including relief.
  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
  • Stress from the experience of having COVID-19 and monitoring yourself, or being monitored by others.
  • Sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones have fears of getting the disease from you, even though you are cleared to be around others.
  • Guilt about not being able to perform normal work or parenting duties while you had COVID-19.
  • Worry about getting re-infected or sick again even though you’ve already had COVID-19.
  • Other emotional or mental health changes.

Children may also feel upset or have other strong emotions if they, or someone they know, has COVID-19, even if they are now better and able to be around others again.


For Everyone

For Communities

For Families and Children

For People at Higher Risk for Serious Illness

For Healthcare Workers and First Responders

For Other Workers



Frequently asked questions

How do pandemics in general affect our mental health?

Dobson: Right now, being worried and anxious is perfectly understandable. We can break down what’s happening by looking at the psychology of anxiety. There are three big predictors of how stressful something is going to be: (1) how predictable it is, (2) how much we can control it, and (3) how important it is to us.

With COVID-19, we’ve got a situation that checks all three boxes. There’s a lot we don’t know, we have relatively weak controls (e.g., hand washing, physical distancing), and it’s really important ? even lethal in the worst case. So we shouldn’t be surprised at our heightened reaction.

Mercer: While any change to our regular day or routine can affect our mental health, this situation is doubly challenging because news of the pandemic is virtually inescapable, and there’s no clear end date. It’s all over the television and social media.

If we’re used to feeling pretty good, the fear of “What if I get sick?” can shake up our confidence. On the other hand, if we already experience less than optimal health, the current climate can ratchet up pre-existing anxiety or stress.

How can I monitor my mental health? What’s healthy in this situation, and what’s concerning?

Dobson: The Mental Health Commission of Canada has a great resource inside The Working Mind COVID-19 Self-Care and Resilience Guide, called the mental health continuum model. It’s a simple tool that presents a series of emotional, cognitive, behavioural, physical, and substance use indicators. These indicators can be used to measure positive-through-deteriorating-to-poor mental health, and changes in personal functioning. Colour-coded as green (healthy), yellow (reacting), orange (injured) and red (ill), the indicators are paired with their corresponding colours to help you understand when it might be time to ask for help.

Mercer: Everyone is different, and everyone will react differently. So, what you need to understand isn’t what’s “normal” but rather what’s healthy for you. As we’re being asked to constantly monitor our physical health (are we coughing? is that a sore throat? do we have a fever?) it’s easy to overlook our mental health. But in fact, it’s more important now than ever. Keep an eye on how you’re feeling or what might trigger negative responses. If news and social media are causing you to believe that everyone else is juggling competing demands better than you are, shut down the computer. If the news cycle is causing your stomach to clench, turn it off. If your kids are resisting a rigid routine, focus on manners and kindness, and forget the mess.

Don’t try to fix everything right now. Pick one thing that isn’t sitting well with you and focus on that.

How I can cope with the stress and anxiety I’m experiencing because of the pandemic?

Dobson: Negative thoughts, such as predictions, worries, or even catastrophic thinking, are normal when we feel anxious. The key is addressing them properly, and there are three basic strategies.

First, ask yourself if your negative thought is realistic. To bring your thinking more in line with the facts, seek out information from a reliable source. Of course, if the situation is unknown, searching for answers isn’t a good use of your energy. Sometimes, recognizing that “only time will tell” is the hardest but most effective strategy.

Second, see if you can challenge your negative thought with a healthier alternative. For example, instead of saying “This is awful,” try “This is a challenge, but I’ve overcome lots of challenges in my life before.” Just make sure you don’t replace negative thoughts with unrealistically positive ones.

Third, try to use gentle, more compassionate language with yourself. In other words, talk to yourself like you’d talk to a friend. Be aware of your negative thinking, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t conquer it every time. Consider saying to yourself, “There’s that horrible thought again. Oh well, it’s reminding me to be concerned. I’m still going for my walk to take care of myself.”

Sometimes, turning our thoughts to others is the best remedy. Humans are social animals, and we all need contact and support. Send a few “Hi, I was thinking about you” texts or emails. You might just find yourself feeling better as a result.

Mercer: Some anxiety is healthy. If it motivates us to be diligent about washing our hands, for example, then it’s doing its job. But if your anxiety is so intense that it prevents you from getting out of bed because you’re worried you won’t be able to wash your hands enough, the balance has obviously tilted toward unhealthy.

Right now, there‘s no shortage of information telling us what to do. Often it includes things like, make a routine, go to bed and get up at a regular time, get dressed as if you were going to work, keep your kids on a schedule, cook healthy foods, eat well, and get exercise. If you’re trying to do all these things to allay your anxiety, it might have the opposite effect. Quite frankly, the thought of doing all those things makes me want to go back to bed.

So we’ve circled back to knowing ourselves and being forgiving of our imperfect efforts. If two hours of social media leaves you feeling depleted and afraid, consume less. Too much of anything is unhealthy. Take what you need to know and leave the rest.

Exercise helps anxiety. But gyms are closed, and some of us aren’t supposed to go outside. Our regular energy level may be lower just from adapting to a drastically new routine. Exercise doesn’t have to be running for an hour or a robust workout. Turn up the music and dance around the room. Go for a walk with your kids if you can. A gentle online stretching course can do a world of good. This is going to be a mental marathon, so we have to be kind to both our bodies and our minds.

As for healthy eating, here’s another place to try and do your best. But your best right now may not be a veggie tray. And that’s OK. If that bag of chips is calling your name, and you want to stress-eat the whole thing, try for half. This wisdom isn’t conventional, perhaps, but it’s honest. Do what you can. Take the small wins. And remember, if you’re generally doing less, you also need to eat less to match your activity level.

I feel anxious about catching the virus or transmitting it to a loved one. What can I do?

Mercer: Take comfort that you aren’t alone. Everyone is feeling anxious about this. Our best tool is to employ the facts from a reliable source. What we can control are very basic but very important things. We should avoid touching our faces and wash our hands often and well ? as though those things are now part of our job. If you’re in the fortunate position of being able to stay home, do that. Get groceries for the week, keeping essential outings to a minimum.

If you must go to work, educate yourself about your rights. Federal and provincial-territorial governments have clear guidelines for employers, so make sure your employer is following those. If you feel you’re in a job where you might bring the virus home to your loved ones, talk about the steps you can all take to feel safe. Wash your hands and face, and change your clothes as you walk in the door. Work toward effective solutions that make everyone in the home feel more comfortable.

Dobson: If you must leave home for work but live with someone who’s vulnerable ? ill, older, with an immune condition ? consider whether you have the means to change your living situation for a time. Can you move in with a co-worker, for example? If not, you may have to rely on very diligent at-home hygiene.

How do I balance washing my hands enough and not becoming obsessive about it?

Mercer: There’s no easy answer because we’re being told by experts to be excessive with hand washing. Again, it comes down to knowing yourself. If your hands are becoming raw and blistered, or you can’t leave the sink without wanting to rush back, these are signs of obsessive behaviour. We know the ideal amount of time to hand wash is 20 seconds. Sing a short song. Watch the videos. It all comes back to educating yourself and following those guidelines.

Dobson: In addition to hand washing, try to think of ways to keep surfaces clean so you can be less focused on constantly washing your hands. Again, be mindful that you’re not obsessively cleaning surfaces. You can put up a schedule, for example, so you can track how often you’re doing each activity. It is not possible to contaminate yourself.

What if I’m already living with an anxiety disorder? Media coverage can be especially triggering. How can I cope best?

Mercer: First, since routine is good, try to limit your news consumption to the essentials: maybe watch a reliable daily press conference or read a public health bulletin. It can feel like we might miss out on an important announcement, but if we’re isolating in our home with our families, it’s likely sufficient to check for updates once or twice a day.

In terms of managing existing anxiety, the most important thing is to maintain the social supports you usually rely on, while respecting the constraints of physical distance. Call, video chat, email, text. If you are in counselling, keep it up. Virtual therapy is becoming more readily available by the day. Skip social media and check for online supports and programs from reputable sites. If you’re starting to feel really overwhelmed, or concerned for your own safety, call your local crisis line.

Dobson: Remember, the actual amount of “news” ? in that it’s new, relevant, and important ? is limited on any given day. Consider watching at around noon, when most of the information from the last 24 hours will be gathered in one place. Avoid listening to the news in the evening, and put your phone away if you’re scrolling incessantly for updates before bedtime. It will set your mind abuzz and may cause you to lose sleep ? and we all cope less well when we’re exhausted.

How do I offer emotional support to friends, family members, or co-workers who have been quarantined?

Dobson: There are some innovative ways to use technology. Try a virtual dance party or games with someone who is in another location.

Mercer: Practical support for friends and neighbours is likely best: if you can drop off food, check their mail, pop some reading material on their porch. When checking on others don’t forget to check in with yourself. The responsibility of caring for others can become draining. Try to share it if you can. If you can’t provide on-site support, consider email, texts, cards, calls, and movie suggestions. All these small gestures can add up to big-time connection.

Which is making people more anxious: the virus or the hysteria in the media?

Mercer: The anxiety is driven by both. This is something we’ve not experienced before, so we have the fear fuelled by our imagination, the fear we hear expressed by family, friends, and on social media. It’s important to stick to the facts, not reach too far into the future, and look at the concrete supports the government is providing. Get clear direction from schools and employers so you understand your obligations. If you can, talk to people in your home about your anxiety, in lieu of turning to websites and the media to seek answers. If you feel compelled to turn to the media, limit yourself to reliable sources.

Dobson: It’s really both factors. The risk of illness is anxiety provoking, but the media coverage doesn’t help. If you feel your anxiety ramping up after binge watching news on television or your smartphone, consider getting your information from more static sources ? like the Public Health Agency of Canada or the World Health Organization. These sites are free of the added sights and sounds that can produce heightened anxiety.

How do I talk to my children about the coronavirus without making them anxious?

Mercer: Children are perceptive, and they’re sensitive to anxiety. Don’t make things up, and don’t pretend the situation outside their four walls isn’t real. There are some excellent resources on how to frame conversations in an age-appropriate manner. Consider telling your kids that they are helpers and that their role is important for keeping themselves and everyone safe. Again, don’t make things up. Stick to simple, relatable language.

Take your cues from them, and talk about it as much, or as little, as they want to. Be sure to balance weightier conversations with levity: watch a happy movie or take a short walk after a difficult conversation. Kids often have short attention spans, and sometimes distraction is the best medicine. If they can’t see their grandparents, help them write letters, make cards, or use FaceTime.

Most of all, let them know that you’re OK and that your number one job is to keep them safe. It’s OK to acknowledge that even parents don’t have all the answers but that you’re taking advice from people who know the most (like health-care experts).

Dobson: Talk to them at a level they can understand. If they aren’t old enough or can’t or won’t verbally express their anxiety, watch for signs of distress: being overly clingy, being oppositional, crying unpredictably, or even pulling away, avoiding, or becoming quiet. In short, look for changes in their healthy behaviour. Again, the mental health continuum inside The Working Mind COVID-19 Self-Care and Resilience Guide can help identify the signs and signals that your child may be having mental health problems. So consider using it with children, too.


COVID-19 and your mental health - Mayo Clinic

Worries and anxiety about COVID-19 and its impact can be overwhelming. Social distancing makes it even more challenging. Learn ways to cope during this pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely brought many changes to how you live your life, and with it uncertainty, altered daily routines, financial pressures and social isolation. You may worry about getting sick, how long the pandemic will last and what the future will bring. Information overload, rumors and misinformation can make your life feel out of control and make it unclear what to do.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen.

Learn self-care strategies and get the care you need to help you cope.

Self-care strategies

Self-care strategies are good for your mental and physical health and can help you take charge of your life. Take care of your body and your mind and connect with others to benefit your mental health.

Take care of your body

Be mindful about your physical health:

Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Stick close to your typical schedule, even if you're staying at home.

Participate in regular physical activity. Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Find an activity that includes movement, such as dance or exercise apps. Get outside in an area that makes it easy to maintain distance from people — as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) or your government — such as a nature trail or your own backyard.

Eat healthy. Choose a well-balanced diet. Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. Limit caffeine as it can aggravate stress and anxiety.

Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs. If you smoke tobacco or if you vape, you're already at higher risk of lung disease. Because COVID-19 affects the lungs, your risk increases even more. Using alcohol to try to cope can make matters worse and reduce your coping skills. Avoid taking drugs to cope, unless your doctor prescribed medications for you.

Limit screen time. Turn off electronic devices for some time each day, including 30 minutes before bedtime. Make a conscious effort to spend less time in front of a screen — television, tablet, computer and phone.

Relax and recharge. Set aside time for yourself. Even a few minutes of quiet time can be refreshing and help to quiet your mind and reduce anxiety. Many people benefit from practices such as deep breathing, tai chi, yoga or meditation. Soak in a bubble bath, listen to music, or read or listen to a book — whatever helps you relax. Select a technique that works for you and practice it regularly.

Take care of your mind

Reduce stress triggers:

Keep your regular routine. Maintaining a regular schedule is important to your mental health. In addition to sticking to a regular bedtime routine, keep consistent times for meals, bathing and getting dressed, work or study schedules, and exercise. Also set aside time for activities you enjoy. This predictability can make you feel more in control.

Limit exposure to news media. Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. Limit social media that may expose you to rumors and false information. Also limit reading, hearing or watching other news, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations. Look for reliable sources such as the CDC and WHO.

Stay busy. A distraction can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Enjoy hobbies that you can do at home, identify a new project or clean out that closet you promised you'd get to. Doing something positive to manage anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.

Focus on positive thoughts. Choose to focus on the positive things in your life, instead of dwelling on how bad you feel. Consider starting each day by listing things you are thankful for. Maintain a sense of hope, work to accept changes as they occur and try to keep problems in perspective.

Use your moral compass or spiritual life for support. If you draw strength from a belief system, it can bring you comfort during difficult times.

Set priorities. Don't become overwhelmed by creating a life-changing list of things to achieve while you're home. Set reasonable goals each day and outline steps you can take to reach those goals. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. And recognize that some days will be better than others.

Connect with others

Build support and strengthen relationships:

Make connections. If you need to stay at home and distance yourself from others, avoid social isolation. Find time each day to make virtual connections by email, texts, phone, or FaceTime or similar apps. If you're working remotely from home, ask your co-workers how they're doing and share coping tips. Enjoy virtual socializing and talking to those in your home.

Do something for others. Find purpose in helping the people around you. For example, email, text or call to check on your friends, family members and neighbors — especially those who are elderly. If you know someone who can't get out, ask if there's something needed, such as groceries or a prescription picked up, for instance. But be sure to follow CDC, WHO and your government recommendations on social distancing and group meetings.

Support a family member or friend. If a family member or friend needs to be isolated for safety reasons or gets sick and needs to be quarantined at home or in the hospital, come up with ways to stay in contact. This could be through electronic devices or the telephone or by sending a note to brighten the day, for example.

Recognizing what's typical and what's not

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it's normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. But multiple challenges daily, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope.

Many people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. And feelings may change over time.

Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping or you may struggle to face routine chores.

When these signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, make you miserable and cause problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it's time to ask for help.

Get help when you need it

Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you're doing. To get help you may want to:

  • Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
  • Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counseling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional.
  • Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments.
  • Contact organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help and guidance.

If you're feeling suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself, seek help. Contact your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Or call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat at

Continue your self-care strategies

You can expect your current strong feelings to fade when the pandemic is over, but stress won't disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Continue these self-care practices to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life's ongoing challenges.

See also


Protecting your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic - John Hopkins

The daily counts of COVID-19 cases and deaths tell the public story of the coronavirus outbreak. Privately, the effects of the pandemic aren’t as clear.

The new reality of social distancing and other safety measures is testing everyone, and those living with mental illness may find this time even more challenging if the support system they rely on is not in place.

Experts from the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health put together these tips and resources on how to protect your mental health during these trying times.

As the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded across the U.S., ordinary life has been put on pause. Lockdowns, travel restrictions, school closings, work closings, and social distancing have created a level of social isolation previously unseen across the globe. Fears about finances and food shortages have placed additional stressors on an already anxious and sensitized population. The practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization are necessary and designed to protect the community, particularly the most vulnerable individuals. However, this pandemic and the associated changes, including serious financial implications for many households, can have profound consequences for our mental health.

Traumatic or stressful experiences put individuals at greater risk for not only poor physical health but poor mental health outcomes, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. You may notice that yourself or others around you are more edgy, irritable, or angry; helpless; nervous or anxious; hopeless, sad, or depressed. Sleep may be disrupted and less refreshing. Practicing social distancing may leave you feeling lonely or isolated. If you are at home with children, you may have less patience than before.

Those who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19—older individuals and people with medical comorbidities or immune-comprised systems—who need to be especially stringent in following guidelines from the health authorities, may be the very people whose mental health may suffer the most. Individuals with a pre-existing mental health condition, such as an anxiety disorder, are also at heightened risk for poor mental health outcomes as a result of coronavirus.

It is important that as a population, we learn how to protect our mental health during this stressful and ever-changing situation, while also following the guidelines set by health authorities to protect our physical health. Here are some strategies that can be used during these challenging times to protect your and others’ mental health.

Create structure

  • Create a daily schedule for you and your family. Feelings of uncertainty can lead to increased mental health symptoms.
  • Try to limit the amount of time you spend watching, reading, or listening to the news. Get your information on the coronavirus outbreak from a trusted source, such as the CDC or WHO, once or twice a day.
  • Make space for activities and conversations that have nothing to do with the outbreak.

Maintain your physical health

  • Protect your sleep. Good quality, sufficient sleep not only helps to support your immune system but also helps you to better manage stress and regulate emotions. Adults should aim for 7–9 hours, while children and teenagers need even more. [See recommendations by the National Sleep Foundation].
  • Try to eat at regular times and opt for nutritious foods whenever possible. Some people may crave junk food or sugary snacks and be tempted to snack mindlessly when stressed or bored, and others may skip meals altogether.
  • Maintain an exercise routine, even if you can’t go to your local gym. Exercise at home using an online workout video, or go for a walk, run, or bike ride in a sparsely populated area.

Support--and create--your community

Create a virtual support group and check in with those around you. There are many options for connecting, including video conferencing software, such as Google Hangouts and Facetime. During this time of isolation, connecting face-to-face (online) is more important than ever. If you can’t stream, then calling and texting is important. Check out some ideas at Wirecutter and Prokit for how to be social during the quarantine.

Crises offer a time for community cohesion and social solidarity, and volunteering is one way to not only help others, but yourself as well. Science has repeatedly shown that volunteering can improve mental health. Check out this article for a list of organizations to donate to and this article for other ways to help your neighbors and community.

If you have children, talk to them honestly about what is going on in an age-appropriate manner. Help kids express their feelings in a positive way, whether playing in the backyard, drawing, or journaling. Check out these guides by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Child Mind Institute, or National Association of School Psychologists for tips on how to talk to your kids about coronavirus.

Take care of your spirit

  • Find a place of worship that is streaming or recording services. If prayer is an important part of your life, make time for it. Stay connected to your church community through phone calls, emails, and video chats.
  • Try meditation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or another mindfulness or relaxation technique. Check out YouTube or phone apps such as Calm or Headspace for guided meditation exercises. Consider enlisting friends and family and practicing meditation together at least once a day. Mindfulness can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, support your immune system, and protect brain health.

Continue or seek out mental health treatment

  • If you are currently in mental health treatment, continue with your current plan if possible, being mindful of approaches to minimize contact with others. Consider reaching out to a mental health professional even if you haven’t before. Make sure you have ongoing access to any medications you need.
  • Ask about video therapy or phone call appointments. Most states have already made emergency exemptions to insurance coverage for telehealth. Regulations have been temporarily relaxed to allow even non-medical software like Skype, Facetime, and Zoom to be used for telehealth. Even if this option wasn't available with your provider previously, it may be now! Contact them to ask about remote services.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol, particularly if you have a pre-existing mental health or substance use disorder. Check out online support groups and meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Smart Recovery, and In The Rooms.
  • The need for social distancing may make it difficult to see symptoms of depression in others. In "hunker-down" mode, the in-person opportunities that we usually have to notice that friends, family, and colleagues may be struggling with a problem are no longer there. One way to think about it is that child abuse or intimate partner violence is missed more often in winter because long clothes cover bruises. Conduct regular "check ins" with your network and stay attuned to symptoms of depression, such as persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, or changes in sleep and weight.


Remember that the emotions you may be experiencing are normal reactions to difficult circumstances. Accept that things are different right now and everyone is adjusting. Prioritize what’s most important and know that it’s okay to let some things go right now.

Be kind to yourself and others. Try to stay positive and use this time to spend more time with your children or spouse, try things you’ve been putting off, such as taking an online class, learning a new skill, or getting in touch with your creative side.

It can be hard to think past what is going on today, let alone in a week or in six months, but give yourself permission to daydream about the future and what is on the horizon. Remember that this is temporary, and things will return to normal.


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