Heightened levels of anxiety, depression, exhaustion, worry, and sadness are all normal emotional responses to a worldwide pandemic, but they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Managing mental health during COVID is just as important as keeping everyone physically safe. With the right tools, techniques, and accurate information, healthcare professionals can provide much-needed mental health care to patients experiencing COVID-related stress.
Educate Patients About Normal Fear Responses to COVID-Related Stress
Some of your patients may have trouble navigating through COVID-related changes. Offering them a comprehensive list of normal emotional responses to a pandemic can reassure them that it is okay to feel what they are feeling.
Some normal emotional responses include but aren’t limited to:
- Feeling jaded
- Problems concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Fatigue and brain fog
Health care professionals can provide some relief to patients by letting them know their stress is temporary. It is expected that these negative emotional responses will taper off once they adapt to the changes in their environment.
Individualize Each Patient’s Response to COVID
No two patients will require the same degree of attention and care. Some may have pre-existing mental health conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A Yale school of Public Health survey found that nearly one-quarter of all frontline health care workers showed signs of PTSD after witnessing high volumes of COVID-related death. Providing mental health relief to healthcare workers suffering from PTSD will require a different approach than with individuals suffering from less drastic forms of COVID-related stress.
Keep Age In Mind
An adult reintegrating into an office setting will require a much different mental health assessment than a child returning to elementary school after being homeschooled for so long.
Children benefit greatly from set schedules and structured environments. They can exhibit behavioral issues when suffering from a lack of routine. Some children may also mirror the stress-induced behaviors of their caretakers, who are also having a hard time adjusting to these rapid changes. Health care professionals can alleviate COVID-related stress in children by talking to their parents about creating routines.
Advise Patients to Manage, Limit, or Avoid Screentime
Consider advising patients to limit screentime and offer suggestions for alternative activities such as:
- Physical exercise
- Spending time with loved ones
- Meditation and/or yoga
- Listening to music
Staying informed is a vital part of preventing COVID from spreading, but too much news consumption—especially news about the coronavirus—can bring out unnecessary fear responses in patients who are highly anxious.
Consider the Benefits of Medication
Prescribing anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepine can bring down unwanted brain activity, alleviate insomnia, and prevent muscle cramps or spasms caused by stress.
Anti-anxiety medications can have a range of negative side effects depending upon the prescription and dose. Carefully assess your patient’s needs and consider other stress-relief options before prescribing medication.