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Managing Coronavirus-Related Stress

3/20/2020

As concerns about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continue to spread, and its impact is felt locally, many people may be feeling distressed. It is very normal, and even expected, for stress and anxiety to be heightened during times of crisis.  People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include people with preexisting mental health or substance use disorders, elderly, children, and people who are helping with the response to COVID-19, such as doctors, health care professionals and first responders.

Please recognize that there can be a wide range of reactions, and that over the next few days or weeks, you may experience periods of:

  • Anxiety, worry, panic
  • Feeling helplessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty concentrating and sleeping
  • Anger
  • Hyper-vigilance to your health and body.

However, you can manage these feelings by taking some simple steps. Many of these steps are essential ingredients for a healthy lifestyle and adopting them can improve your overall emotional and physical well-being.

  1. Get information from a trusted resource. The website ohio.gov is updated regularly by the Ohio Department of Health in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has the facts on what is happening in Ohio and helpful resources on prevention and testing for you and your family. If you have specific questions, ask an expert at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634). This call center is managed by the Ohio Department of Health and is now open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  2. Limit media exposure. Today’s 24-hour news cycle can make it difficult to turn away from the TV, radio, or social media, but research has shown that excess media exposure to coverage of stressful events can result in negative mental health outcomes. Use trusted media outlets to gather the information you need, then turn them off.
  3. Be prepared. Prevent risk of illness by taking simple steps that are good practices: Wash your hands. Cover your cough. Increase cleaning. Stay home if you’re sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  4. Eat healthy foods and exercise to boost your immune system.
  5. Get plenty of rest.
  6. Stay in touch with friends and loved ones and talk with them about your worries. Maintaining social networks can help maintain a sense of normalcy and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress.
  7. Keep participating in hobbies and activities that you enjoy to improve your mood.
  8. Recognize signs of distress in yourself and family or friends. Signs of stress include worry, fear, sleeping or eating too little or too much, difficulty concentrating, pulling away from people or things at home or work or in daily life, yelling or fighting with family or friends, having thoughts or memories you can’t get out of your head, unexplained aches and pains, feeling hopeless or helpless, thinking of hurting yourself or someone else, and increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
  9. Be mindful of your assumptions about others. Someone who has a cough or a fever does not necessarily have coronavirus. Self-awareness is important in not stigmatizing others in our community.
  10. Get help for your stress if you need it by calling the national Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. Or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.

The Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board is ready and willing to do all we can to ensure continuity of care for Columbiana County residents with mental illness and substance use disorders, many of whom have co-occurring health conditions that may make contracting this virus more dangerous for them.

People with pre-existing mental health conditions and substance use disorders should continue with their treatment plans and monitor for any new symptoms. Our local providers are taking the necessary steps to maintain continuity of services, including increasing use of telehealth. State leaders have filed emergency rules to expand and enhance telehealth options for Ohioans and their providers. These rules will relax regulations so that more people can be served safely in their homes rather than needing to travel to substance use or mental health treatment centers.

These rules will allow the use of telephones for counseling for other services. This allows complete geographic coverage of telehealth services throughout the state of Ohio, in every home, through just a simple landline. This is important because we know that broadband and cellular service are not available in every part of Ohio.

Behavioral health providers and their patients will be able to use normal landlines or cell phones and applications like Facetime to deliver provider and patient counseling and other services. This eliminates the need for special equipment to connect through videoconferencing.

The rules also eliminate the requirement that the first visit for behavioral health services be in-person. So if a person hasn’t been connected to mental health or addiction services but needs them now during this emergency declaration, they will be able to get help without having to see a professional in person first.

Call your current provider for more information about any changes that might be occurring in their daily business operations. If you do not currently have a provider, you may contact the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board (CCMHRSB) at 330-424-0195 for available resources or you can visit www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov.  

Additional information on ways to manage stress and anxiety and on how to talk with your children about coronavirus is available by calling the CCMHRSB office (330-424-0195) or on the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services website at mha.ohio.gov.



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