By Dr. Amanda Wakefield
By now, everyone has heard more than they ever wanted to about the COVID-19 pandemic and have felt its impact in one way or another. The guidelines for preventing infection (e.g. frequent handwashing, staying home when you’re sick) have stayed much the same over time, except for the additional recommendation to wear cloth face coverings or masks in public. While face coverings have become a hot-button issue in national politics, medical experts from across the political spectrum are encouraging people to wear them. This is largely because information gathered over the past few months has shown that many people who are spreading the virus are not showing any symptoms. Wearing masks or cloth face coverings can help keep others safe, even if you don’t feel sick.
While safety guidelines haven’t changed much, many other aspects of our daily lives have changed dramatically. For many people, this has been a time of higher-than-usual stress. Changes in our daily routines can lead to changes in how we think, feel, and act. Many of these changes can be helpful (e.g. washing your hands more often), but others could become a problem.
A recent survey by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine found that the most common concerns during this time are: feeling lonely and isolated, feeling out of control, worries about the impact of the virus on jobs and financial health, and concerns about the health of oneself and one’s family. Rates of anxiety, depression, and sleep issues are also showing large increases around the world.
It is important to remember that every individual responds differently to stress, whether the stress is because of a global pandemic or simply because tax season has rolled around once again. Be kind to yourself and others as we navigate this stressful time together. If you feel unable to cope with stress, there is help available (often covered by your health insurance).
The State of Indiana has put together a long list of resources for helping manage physical and mental health, along with information about financial assistance. You can find these resources at bewellindiana.com. Many of the tips on this site are things you can do from your own home with no special tools or training. There are also several ways to find a mental health provider, including: contacting your insurance company for referrals, looking online (indianapsychology.org or psychologytoday.com are good resources), or speaking with your primary care doctor. Even though increased stress during this time is normal, you don’t have to just live with it.
Take care of yourselves and remember – we are truly all in this together!