Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the public view of the scientific and health communities has seemed to focus on little else. Because of the danger and contagiousness of COVID-19, ways to slow the spread of the virus and mitigate its severity have eclipsed most other health issues.
At ANA-Illinois, we believe the effects of COVID-19 on mental health need to remain a priority. The Center for Disease Control, perhaps the most prominent health organization in the United States, stated on its website: “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.”
Added Stressors for Nurses in Illinois
In addition to the stressors that the CDC describes, we know that nurses and other healthcare workers have added stressors. They are on the front line of the pandemic. Many are overworked. Some lack access to personal protective equipment.
Below are some suggestions on how you can take care of your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the suggestions below can be helpful, please remember that only YOU know what you need in order to truly stay healthy during the pandemic.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation may reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. The site notes that, while there are many different types of meditation, “most have four elements in common: a quiet location with as few distractions as possible; a specific, comfortable posture; a focus of attention; and an open attitude.”
Nurses feeling stressed during this pandemic may consider using meditation as a means to combat stress. There are a variety of smartphone apps that are designed to guide you through the process (and many are free). This article in The New York Times gives a list of their favorites in 2020.
While it’s well known that exercise does wonders for physical health, it can also help with mental health. Studies show that exercise can help to combat depression, anxiety, and stress, amongst other mental health ailments. With gyms closed in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, you should consider going for a long walk or for a jog outside a couple of times a week. Sunshine + exercise will do wonders for the soul.
If that’s too much, start small and try to increase! Even a little exercise can have a positive impact on your mental health.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, sleep and mental health are closely related. The article states that those who have anxiety and depression often have trouble getting enough sleep, which then exacerbates the mental health issues. If possible, get into a routine of sleeping and waking at the same time. Cutting down on your caffeine intake, exercising, and unwinding before bed can also be helpful. In this article, Mayo Clinic gives 6 tips for coping with insomnia.
Don’t be Afraid to Seek Help
If the stress begins to be too much for you to deal with, don’t be afraid to seek help. The Center for Disease Control has published contact information for a variety of organizations that assist those who need help.
Taking Care of Your Mental Health
During these stressful times, we at ANA-IL encourage you to do what is needed to stay mentally healthy — whether that be taking a few days off of work, getting more sleep, or talking to a professional. And remember, we’re in this together.