St. Mary’s County Health Department: Coping with Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 24, 2020

The pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for some people – everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Older people, people with chronic illnesses, children, teens, health care workers and first responders, and people with mental health conditions may be particularly vulnerable to stress due to the outbreak.

“Feelings of fear, anxiety, sadness and uncertainty are normal during a pandemic. Fortunately, being proactive about your mental health can help to keep both your mind and body healthy,” said Tammy Loewe, Behavioral Health Director for the St Mary’s County Health Department. “People with pre-existing mental health conditions should continue with their treatment plans during an emergency and monitor for any new or worsening symptoms.”

There are things community members can do to support themselves and their loved ones to alleviate stress. Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. When you do read news, turn to information sources that provide reliable information about how to protect yourself. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.

Most people that do get sick with this illness will experience mild or moderate symptoms similar to the common cold or flu, and will recover well. Stay grounded, exercise, and meditate. Talk to friends and family via phone or video to maintain connection. Try to get regular sleep, follow a healthy diet, and avoid alcohol and drugs.

If you or a loved one are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, please call 2-1-1, text your zip-code to 898-211, or visit 211md.org. These resources are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7 and provides free and confidential support for people in distress and crisis. Call 1-800-273-8255 or CHAT online with counselors for emotional support. Help is also available en Español and for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Locally, behavioral health providers have continued to offer needed treatment and support services in the community through telehealth services and appointment based scheduling. Visit www.smchd.org/bhtreatment/ for more information.

For local COVID-19 updates and resources, including information on mental health and coping, please visit the St. Mary’s County Health Department’s website at www.smchd.org/coronavirus/.

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