Supporting Mental Health During COVID-19
Primary COVID-19 Resources for Communities
- Refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) dedicated website for updates regarding COVID-19.
- Coronavirus guidelines for America for slowing the spread of the virus advises avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people.
- For more guidance and instruction on prevention efforts for community’s traditional practices please review the HHS Partnership Center’s COVID-19 Recommendations for community and faith organizations.
Promoting Positive Mental Health Practices during COVID-19 and Quarantine
Suggestions for Managing Stress During Quarantine
- Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Reach out to your friends and family and talk and connect via phone or FaceTime.
- Reach out to a neighbor who may need help. Be mindful if you have a neighbor who may be in the at-risk population and if you are heading out to the store, ask them if they need anything that you can pick up. This will not only help them, it will also help you. Simple acts like these can go a long way and can also make us feel better.
- Exercise. During stressful times going outside and taking a brisk walk can help you relax, boost your mood and help you in managing your stress levels.
- Eat a healthy diet – research has shown that what you eat—and don’t eat—affects the way you think and feel.
- Avoid excessive or continued alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant and drinking too much can often make your mood and anxiety levels worse.
- Get enough sleep. Make sure to put self-care as a priority and do your best to get enough sleep. Sleep has many benefits and during stressful times it can help aid in keeping your mind and body healthy.
- Consume the news in moderation. While it is important to stay informed, too much information adds to our stress levels. The repetitive nature of the news reports is not good for our mental health. Once you are informed, turn off the news and read a book or watch a feel-good movie.
The preceding information is from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.
Additional suggestions from the CDC website.
How Parents can Help Children Cope with Changes Caused by COVID-19
STAY CALM, LISTEN, AND OFFER REASSURANCE
- Be a role model
- Be aware of how you talk about COVID-19
- Explain Social distancing
- Demonstrate deep breathing
- Focus on the positive
- Establish and maintain a daily routine
- Identify projects that might help others
- Offer lots of love and affection
MONITOR TELEVISION VIEWING AND SOCIAL MEDIA
- Parents/guardians should monitor television, internet, and social media viewing—both for themselves and their children
- Dispel rumors and inaccurate information
- Provide alternatives
BE HONEST AND ACCURATE
- Correct misinformation
- Explain simple safety steps
- Stay up-to-date on the facts
KEEP EXPLANATIONS AGE APPROPRIATE
- Early elementary school children: Provide brief, simple information that balances COVID-19 facts with appropriate reassurances that adults are there to help keep them healthy and to take care of them if they do get sick. Give simple examples of the steps people make every day to stop germs and stay healthy, such as washing hands. Use language such as "adults are working hard to keep you safe."
- Upper elementary and early middle school children: This age group often is more vocal in asking questions about whether they indeed are safe and what will happen if COVID-19 spreads in their area. They may need assistance separating reality from rumor and fantasy. Discuss the efforts national, state, and community leaders are doing to prevent germs from spreading.
- Upper middle and high school students: Issues can be discussed in more depth. Refer them to appropriate sources of COVID-19 facts. Provide honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19. Engage them in decision-making about family plans, scheduling, and helping with chores at home.
- For all children, encourage them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings.
STAY CONNECTED TO SCHOOL
- Locate learning resources
- Identify additional resources
- Stay in touch
- Connect with school staff
KNOW THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19
- According to the CDC, symptoms of fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath appear within 14 days after being exposed to the disease.
- For some people, the symptoms are similar to having a cold; for others, they are more severe or even life threatening.
MODEL BASIC HYGIENE AND HEALTHY LIFESTYLE PRACTICES
- Practice daily good hygiene
- Wash your hands multiple times a day for 20 seconds
- Compliment your children when they use a Kleenex or sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow
- Sadly, handshakes and hugs need to be limited to immediate family members, at least for now
- Foster a sense of control
- Build the immune system. Encourage your child to eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly; this will help them develop a robust immune system to fight off illness
BE AWARE OF YOUR CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH
- Most children will manage well with the support of parents and other family members, even if showing signs of some anxiety or concerns, such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Some children, however, may have risk factors for more intense reactions, including severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal behaviors. Risk factors can include a pre-existing mental health problem, prior traumatic experiences or abuse, family instability, or the loss of a loved one. Parents and caregivers should contact a professional if children exhibit significant changes in behavior or any of the following symptoms for more than 2 weeks.
- Preschoolers: Thumb sucking, bedwetting, clinging to parents, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, fear of the dark, regression in behavior, and withdrawal.
- Elementary school children: Irritability, aggressiveness, clinginess, nightmares, school avoidance, poor concentration, and withdrawal from activities and friends.
- Adolescents: Sleeping and eating disturbances, agitation, increase in conflicts, physical complaints, delinquent behavior, and poor concentration.
The preceding information is from the National Association for School Psychologists. More details about the topics above can be found at thier webiste.
A Storybook for Parents to Read to Children about COVID-19
Provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), My Hero Is You, is a a storybook meant for caregivers or teachers to read for their children to help them understand what is happening in the world today with the effects of COVID-19.
The book is not intended for children to read on their own and it is encouraged for caregivers to be available to help the child process the information covered in the book. Provided in both English and Spanish, the book also covers mental health and psychological needs of children during this world event. Bellow you will find the link to the English and Spanish copy of the book:
Conflict Resolution with your Quarantine Partner/s
It is normal that being in continued and close contact with your loved ones during high stress times could lead to conflict. Having skills and tools to calm your nervous system and effectively handle conflict can help reduce fighting and lead to better resolutions if fights occur. Here are 9 tips for how to prevent fights with loved ones during quarantine.
- Call a time-out for reflection.
- Identify what you are experiencing. Are you scared? Frustrated? Sad? Anxious? Jittery? Feeling sick inside, alone, or uncared for? Whatever feelings you have, just stop and validate them. There’s no wrong way to feel, only wrong ways to behave.
- Do a self-care check: Ask yourself, am I hungry or when did I last eat? Many of us are on the anxiety diet. But even if we don’t have an appetite, we must eat to keep our mood from plummeting. Am I tired? It’s natural to have trouble sleeping or to sleep a lot when stressed. Knowing if you are tired is important so you can understand your mood. Let your loved ones know that you’re not angry at them and they did nothing wrong. You are just tired.
- Remind yourself and each other, “This situation is temporary.” Because it is.
- Use grounding and breathing exercises frequently whenever you feel tense, jittery, panicky, overwhelmed, or angry.
- Change your environment if possible and adopt a playful attitude. You might not feel like being playful at first. You can try it anyway and see if your brain starts to shift, which it might. Walk, run, prepare a garden bed for planting, or simply name colors, sounds, and textures in the environment. If you can't go out try looking at photos of the beach, mountains.
- Make a list of simple things that calm you to try to shift from a distressed state of mind to one that feels better. Look at your custom list in times of acute irritability or distress and execute each one by one until you feel relief.
- Drop into your body to work purposely with tense and stressed out parts of you. Then, share how you feel with your loved ones from an authentic place inside you. They probably feel the same way. No need to fix anything. It’s amazing how talking about feelings openly transforms a bad feeling into something better.
- Each time you want to say something nasty or mean to someone in your family, Instead validate your underlying fear, sadness, or other emotions.
The preceding information is from Hilary Jacobs Hendel LCSW found at Psychology Today.