If concern over COVID-19 has you feeling anxious, nervous, distressed and overwhelmed, you are not alone. According to mental health experts, these are common feelings resulting from the new normal of sheltering in place, constantly checking social media and watching nonstop news about the coronavirus outbreak.
For those who struggle with anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges on a regular basis, odds are high they will experience even more stress than usual, which can make life in isolation extra difficult.
While we protect ourselves from the coronavirus by self-isolating, we should also take care of our emotional and mental health by looking out for situations that can arise from self-isolation.
Changes in routines like staying home from school and work, spending hours indoors, decreased job and financial security, and getting less exercise than usual can all increase stress. And, experts say, the go-to and often detrimental behaviors people use to cope with stress will also likely increase. These behaviors include overeating, drug and alcohol abuse, excessive screen time, and bouts of anger.
Just being aware that self-isolation can prompt these feelings and behaviors can help us be prepared to address them. Don’t forget that children and youths can also experience these feelings and behaviors. You can help yourself and your family deal with these by:
- Talking honestly with children about their fears and concerns, providing age-appropriate information.
- Allaying anxiety by talking to a trusted friend, counselor or minister
- Being aware that teens will want to stay in touch with friends and may use their cell phones more than usual.
- Monitoring the time children spend online in non-learning activities.
- Controlling intake of sweets and junk food and including healthy choices at mealtimes.
- Setting aside time for exercise or physical activity each day
- Starting the day with reflection through journaling or even deep breathing
The resources below, provided by Dallas ISD Psychological and Social Services department, discuss the possible stressors families may experience and suggest helpful behaviors and strategies.
- Talking to Your Kids about the Coronavirus
- Talking to Children about COVID-19 – A Parent Resource from National Assn. of School Psychologists and Nat’l. Assn. of School Nurses
- National Alliance on Mental Illness COVID-19 Coronavirus Information and Resources
If a child is experiencing heightened levels of fear, such as nightmares or excessive worrying, parents should seek additional help. Here are several resources.
- Dallas ISD Psychological and Social Services Department (972) 925-8050
- Youth and Family Centers (972) 502-4190
- Schedule a visit with your child’s school counselor: https://www.dallasisd.org/Domain/3068.