8 Steps to Caring for your Mental Health During COVID-19

By Dr. Geoffrey Grammer, Chief Medical Officer for Greenbrook TMS

As COVID-19 impacts the world in an unprecedented way, it's more important than ever to support and manage your mental health. Anyone's resiliency can be taxed by factors such as loss of control, social isolation, fast-moving information, mortality fears, and an uncertain end date to this situation. For those already managing depression, maintaining your mental health during the coronavirus can be an even bigger challenge. However, there are many small things you can do to help yourself push through this difficult time. I'd like to offer some actionable strategies to preserve your physical and mental well-being during this crisis.

Maintain Normalcy With a Routine

We all will need to establish a new sense of normal by modifying our lifestyle to stay physically well and sustain good mental health. Here are some simple steps to help you set up a new routine. Consider selecting one or two to start with, and then gradually adopt more habits from there:

Step 1: Wake up at the same time every day, even if it means you have to set an alarm.

Step 2: Take care of your normal hygiene tasks, such as showering and brushing your teeth.

Step 3: Get out of your pajamas and put on daytime clothes each day.

Step 4: Prepare breakfast, and continue to eat nutritious meals throughout the day using a variety of food groups. Do try to eat regularly, but avoid eating non-nutritious foods in excess. Also, avoid excessive alcohol consumption and illicit drug use.

Step 5: Utilize technology to reach out to friends and family, whether on the telephone or the internet. This will help you to feel more connected and less socially isolated.

Step 6: Get some exercise. It's just as important as ever.

Step 7: Go outside for some fresh air and sunshine while staying compliant with recommended social distancing guidelines.

Step 8: Establish a bedtime and stick to it each night so your circadian rhythm doesn't become imbalanced.

Additionally, challenge yourself with something that will exercise your mind, such as learning a new skill or playing a game with others in your household or with friends online. You may want to try building a model, painting by numbers, or knitting a scarf. Identify little things you can accomplish in a specific period of time, not big projects that might be difficult to accomplish or would take extended time to complete. These tasks can offer you a reprieve from the general feelings of uncertainty during this time.

Managing Your Mental Health Care

Fostering a robust immune system and protecting your mental health during the coronavirus crisis are big parts of your overall well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend patients continue with their mental health care. While for some this may mean keeping up with talk therapy appointments and medication regimens, at Greenbrook NeuroHealth Centers we want you to feel reassured that you can still get TMS therapy at our locations, which remain open to provide needed care to our patients even as the world practices social distancing and sheltering in place.

To ensure your TMS treatments are provided as safely as possible, we are continually updating our policies and procedures to account for COVID-19 considerations. As of today:

  • We are staggering appointments to keep our waiting rooms as empty as possible, and we disinfect waiting areas several times a day.
  • Staff are practicing social distancing and modifying approaches to device placement to minimize risk of respiratory spread.
  • We are requiring anyone—staff and patients alike—who has symptoms associated with COVID-19 to be assessed and released from quarantine recommendations by their primary care provider before they can return to the center.
  • We disinfect all equipment and surfaces between patients, and our devices use hygienic barriers, which are changed between patients.
  • Our staff will be wearing masks to minimize the risk of spread of respiratory droplets.
  • We offer telemedicine services for some types of appointments.

What to Do If Your Symptoms Worsen

A pandemic can challenge anyone's coping mechanisms. Disruptions to routines create barriers to coping strategies, which makes managing your mental health during a crisis an additional trial to contend with. You may find yourself tending toward catastrophic thinking due to the narrative of this pandemic, which can create a harmful feedback loop. You may also find yourself tempted to adopt unproductive coping strategies.

You can prevent worsening symptoms by working on a healthy routine, staying mentally active, and avoiding maladaptive behaviors, such as sitting on the couch all day or not connecting with friends and family. Don't hesitate to reach out to a professional if you need to. Let your provider know if you have difficulties with sleep or nutrition, you develop thoughts of self-harm, or you notice your symptoms getting worse over time. If you are taking medications, make sure to take them as prescribed. Don't compensate by taking more than prescribed or try to ration them by taking less. If you need immediate help, please refer to our list of emergency resources.

Above all, stay engaged in your mental health care. Getting support and treatment for your mental health is no less important than fixing a broken arm or seeing a cardiologist for heart disease. Mental health treatment should not wait, so please reach out to us if you need assistance. We at Greenbrook TMS care about your well-being. We will be here for you during this pandemic and as you take steps to recover.

If Covid-19 and social isolation are heightening your symptoms of depression, Greenbrook TMS therapy may be able to help. At Greenbrook, we specialize in TMS therapy — an FDA-cleared, non-invasive treatment for treatment-resistant depression and OCD without harmful side effects. See if TMS therapy is right for you by clicking here to take a brief assessment:

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