By Olga Harris, LPC, MAMFC
After the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a lot of people started to experience anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. Anxiety and depression can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in both adults and children.
I have been a mental health provider for over 22 years and some of the top mental disorders that I help people deal with are anxiety and depression. I often say that anxiety and depression are “mean cousins” because they like to come at you together. These two mental disorders feed off each other.
Often my clients experience anxiety due to truly threatening situations in their lives, but I also have seen those that somehow can fabricate fear and create anxiety out of thin air. Their overactive minds create fictional situations that produce very real emotions and damaging mental health disorders with long-lasting side effects. This COVID-19 pandemic that we are now facing is a very real threat to our physical health and even to our lives and the anxiety and depression that some are feeling is also very real.
Acute anxiety often gives birth to depression (and vice versa), because the person starts to experience feelings of despair when they find themselves unsuccessful in controlling their anxiety. Depression is born in anxiety and, at the same time, creates more depression and anxiety. These two emotions create a spiral effect that can be difficult to break.
In the face of the COVID-19 threat, we must take certain precautions. We must practice social distancing. We must wash ourselves and disinfect our surroundings. Many of us must shelter in place and quarantine ourselves in order to limit the spread of the disease. All of these things are very important, but what is not being mentioned as much is that we must be aware of our mental health.
Many people are experiencing a dire mental health crisis during this pandemic. Social distancing and quarantine are shutting people off from those whom they count as their mental support system. Healthy social interactions such as handshakes and hugs are suddenly taboo. The denial of these social interactions can have the unfortunate outcome of a spike in depression and anxiety for some people.
Mental health care has been qualified as an essential service, due to the negative effects of COVID-19 on mental health. Millions of people are experiencing anxiety and depression related to this life-threatening outbreak.
This generation has never experienced this kind of global crisis. We, here in the USA, are a great nation with abundant resources and yet we find ourselves struggling and lacking essential resources in the medical field as well as supermarkets. This creates a deep feeling of uncertainty in people’s minds.
How can we deal with this situation? How might we face our own fears? How will we hold on to our courage in the face of such difficult odds?
Among other good things, you could practice the following:
- Take a break from social media and the news
- Follow good safety habits
- Get plenty of rest and sleep. Eat properly, take walks and exercise, and take B-complex and multivitamins
- Take up a hobby or other enjoyable activities
- Share your feelings with others, but avoid negative people who will make you more anxious
- Practice your faith in God by taking time to pray and meditate on His word
- Seek professional counseling
In addition to being a counselor, I am also a Christian. When I experience anxious times, I look to the Bible for guidance. God promised in the Bible that He would always be with us, especially in times of trouble and difficulty. I truly believe that God is with us through this storm.
Be assured that this pandemic did not take God by surprise. I am sure that when He said that in the world we would encounter tribulation, He already knew that we would be facing this COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He also told us that he has conquered illnesses and death.
So, we need to rest assured that we are in His hands. Some of us might still get sick, many will recover and some might even die. But remember for those that are in Christ we know that they will go to a much better place than this planet.
I encourage each of you to stay strong in the Lord. Take your cares and concerns to Him. Seek out your system of support and talk through your worries. Read the Bible. Scripture is full of verses related to anxiety: Psalm 94:19; Proverbs 12:25; Matthew 6:25-34; 1 Peter 5:6-8; Philippians 4:6-7. Look them up, post them around your house or, better yet, try to memorize them.
I pray that you and your family can stay safe and keep your anxiety and emotions in check during these difficult days.
Olga Harris seeks to provide a safe place where you can get help for marriage and family issues, problems with abuse of all types, as well as grief and loss. She can be reached at www.olgaharrislpc.com or (956) 752-8072. She is also available for personal or family counseling via telehealth technology. Call for details.