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    The Impact of COVID-19 and Pandemics on Mental Health



    It's safe to say that the spread and fear of Covid-19 aren't the only pandemic that we are all dealing with. The fact remains that with grocery stores looking like something out of doomsday and purge films, it's causing many of us to have such uncertainties that its heightening anxieties.

    We all fear the unknown of not knowing if we will be able to pay bills, keep our business open or working. However, many of us have the fear of going outside to deal with life and all of our responsibilities.

    Staying up late watching the news all day filling our minds with so much information is creating an overload of anxieties. Mental illness was already an epidemic, now with the Covid-19 outbreak; we have two pandemics on our hands. Now, with the uncertainties of what's to come with the spread of this virus, it's creating high-stress situations. Fear and anxiety about a virus can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults, teens and children. Learning how to cope with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

    Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.....

    The elderly and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19 are extremely stressed about the outcome. Many of them are in senior care facilities where visits are no longer permitted. Children and teens will be more reactive to stress depending on how they see their parents reacting or what’s been said in their presence.

    Many people who are on the frontlines helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors and other health care providers or first responders are trying to find ways to cope while risking their lives to help others know they could potentially put their own families at risk. People who live with mental health conditions including those with substance use may be suffering more with thoughts of disparity. Then there are many of you out there that have never dealt with panic or anxiety, not knowing what to feel and how to cope with the immense stress of the situation.

    Things you can do to support yourself and advise others to do ...

    -Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be overwhelming and upsetting.

    -Take care of your body & mind...This is the time to put yourself into (self-care mode) take a bath, breathe deeply, stretch, dance, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of rest, and avoid alcohol and drugs.

    -Connect with others. Speak with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

    Call your healthcare provider or a mental crisis hotline if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

    Parents:

    Children and teens take in what they see from the adults around them. When parents deal with the COVID-19calmly & confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to their children if they are better prepared.

    Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Watch for changes.

    Younger children will be more irritated and cry excessively more than normal.

    Returning to behaviors they have outgrown ( toileting accidents or bedwetting)

    Excessive worry or sadness and at times fits of rage

    Unhealthy eating or change in sleeping habits

    Irritability and "acting out" behaviors in teens & younger children

    Difficulty with their attention span and concentration

    Avoiding activities they've enjoyed in the past

    Unexplained headaches or body pain or stomach aches

    There are many things you can do to support your children

    Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions they may have.

    Limit your family's exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and see. They can be frightened about something they do not understand.

    Try your best to keep regular routines as schools are closed. Create a schedule for learning activities, relaxing or fun activities.

    Be a role model for your kids. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Stay connected with your friends and family members that may help ease the tensions.

    This is a very difficult time for many people, many out there have already been affected by this pandemic by losing their loved ones or being ill themselves. It's ok not to be ok and reach out for help. Unfortunately, the number of people getting the virus is one thing however, the numbers of people having panic and anxiety attacks have tripled.

    While many of us focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, we also have to see that the epidemic of mental health issues has become a pandemic as well.

    I'm not a scientist, Doctor or nurse... I'm a mental health advocate that has dedicated my life in helping those that suffer in silence, being their voice and providing coping tools. I've always been open about my struggles with mental illness and how challenging it can be. I will continue to express how important it is to keep our bodies safe as well as our minds. Don't feel ashamed for being scared during these difficult times.

    Always remember, this too shall pass... Most importantly be kind to one another.