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The Mental Health Implications of COVID-19…Part 1

April is National Counseling Awareness Month, and as the COVID-19 situation continues to play out, many of us are dealing with increased stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. We interviewed Rudoy Medical practitioners Christine Chollak, NP, and Tessa Zamponis, NP, to learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 on our mental health. We’ll be sharing what we learned in a series of blog posts throughout April. Please join us in thanking all of the mental health practitioners providing caring support during the ongoing public health crisis.

Q:  Generally speaking, how do situations like the COVID-19 pandemic affect people’s mental health?

What’s happening with COVID-19 will affect people differently. This also depends on each person’s individual situation. Do they have families? Were their jobs affected? Do they have pre-existing health conditions? On a whole I feel this type of situation triggers fear and worry, worry of the unknown. In our lifetimes, we have never dealt with anything like this, so I think the unknown is what is extremely triggering to people. A lot of people feel isolated which promotes feelings of loneliness, especially in a place like NYC, where people are very accustomed to being out and socializing. Due to NYC apartments being relatively small, I feel we are at an even higher risk of developing depression along with the fear and worry.

Q:  One of the unique challenges of the COVID-19 situation is that there is so much we don’t know about it. How can people help manage a fear of the unknown?

This is something we have no control of. Therefore the most important way to manage stress and anxiety is to try to maintain a normal schedule. We recommend writing out a schedule for the next day, so you feel more in control and accountable to a routine. Take care of yourself, for example:

  • Eat healthy.
  • Take a walk or a jog to get some fresh air.
  • Find a way to exercise (of course while adhering to social distancing guidelines).
  • Make sure you unplug from the media and don’t get too caught up in the news or social media. It can be upsetting for anyone to hear constant coverage of COVID-19, so give yourself a break.
  • When you do feel overwhelmed, try deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, and guarding your thoughts. There are many online resources about these techniques for people to try.
  • I do recommend meditation. It can be really simple and done through apps like Calm or Headspace for just ten minutes a day.
  • I’m a big fan of doing something nice for yourself daily. Pick an activity that makes you happy, so you feel pampered in some way. It’s OK to take that time just for you.
  • Also be sure to continue to connect with friends and loved ones through phone or video conferencing. Stay connected.
  • Lastly, do not drink too much alcohol, as it is a depressant.

Q:  What can people expect after the immediate crisis has passed? Will there be lingering effects to our mental health?

I believe there will be lasting changes related to mental health for many. This is an unprecedented global pandemic, but more importantly, a clear reminder of how vulnerable we all are. This is a difficult lesson to process and will likely be on people’s minds even after COVID-19 is contained. I think a lot of people felt unprepared and ill-equipped to manage this situation, and that too can exacerbate feelings of vulnerability. The important things to remember here are all of the selfless individuals and acts of solidarity that highlight human resilience. More tangible changes resulting from COVID-19 will also continue to impact mental health once the virus is contained. NYC specifically will have many individuals and businesses who will struggle with the financial repercussions of this pandemic. We know that financial instability elevates stress which is a big contributor to mental health.

 Q:  How is Rudoy Medical providing counseling when people are being told to stay at home? Are you still able to consult with patients?

We have actually made a very quick turn around of how we are seeing patients. We are offering telehealth sessions for both therapy and medication management appointments, so everyone can get the treatment they need while staying safe. We made this decision to ensure that treatment remained accessible, but also to do our part to promote social distancing and thus slow the spread of this virus. Once COVID-19 is contained, and we feel it is safe to ask patients to travel to our offices, we will offer face-to-face appointments again. However, due to the positive response we have received about telehealth, we will continue to offer this form of treatment in the future.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental, emotional, or social challenge, call us today to make an appointment with our therapy team.

CRISIS INFORMATION

Rudoy Medical does not provide crisis services and is not staffed to respond to people in crisis. If you or someone you love are in crisis, below are some resources that may be helpful.

  • If you are in danger or are having a health- or mental health-related emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
  • If you are experiencing a crisis, text 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to reach a trained crisis counselor with the Crisis Text Line.
  • If you or someone you love are contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), En Español 1-888-628-9454, for support.
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