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Coping with Mental Stress During a Health Pandemic

16 April 2020


We recorded today’s episode via Zoom with Laura Walls, a Licensed Professional Counselor with Shenandoah Memorial Hospital’s Senior Outpatient Program; and Tiffany Markwood, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Winchester Medical Center’s Outpatient Behavioral Health Services.

They explained how their group/individual therapy and psychiatric care have transitioned from in-person to telehealth video and audio rather seamlessly for both new and existing patients. Tiffany and Laura stressed that when you combine a crisis such as COVID-19 with social isolation it can exacerbate underlying anxiety and depression. People who are already living a somewhat isolated life may struggle even more with the added stressors.

In the second segment of the show, we talked about different scenarios and they gave several tips and suggestions for coping with the stress and anxiety that comes with living through a health pandemic. Those included:

  • Mindfulness strategies
  • The power of reframing
  • Positive thinking and positive self-talk
  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Spirituality
  • Staying connected with others (while social distancing)
  • Limiting media input
  • Taking advantage of available online resources and apps
  • Getting outside (safely)
  • Physical activity
  • Find things to do — hobbies, projects
  • Maintaining good sleep
  • Find ways to help others
  • Look for and pay attention to positive news
  • Avoid unhealthy coping options such as alcohol/drug use and over eating

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 and the Crisis Text Line 741741 are both great resources for anyone REALLY struggling or considering self-harm.

They also offered suggestions for helping children deal with the uncertainties of the time:

  • If possible, help children stay connected to grandparents, family, friends/teachers virtually
  • Limit children’s access to media and news about COVID 19 pandemic
  • Use kid-friendly ways to explain viruses and safety measures
  • Help kids maintain sleep routines and physical activity and time spent outside
  • Look for outlets for creative expression
  • Give them opportunities to talk about their feelings
  • Build in ways to have fun

Tiffany also suggested this YouTube video that may help kids to understand the concept of social distancing. It’s called Time to Come in, Bear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DA_SsZFYw0w

For more information about Valley Health’s Behavioral Health services, visit their website: https://www.valleyhealthlink.com/our-services/behavioral-health-services/

Coping with Mental Stress During a Health Pandemic
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