girl wearing mask for covid-19

COVID-19, Mental Health & Substance Abuse

These days, most people have their temperatures taken to screen for COVID-19 before entering public spaces. But, that’s not the only thing we should be screening for. Disasters and public health emergencies can lead to stress and tension that take a toll on our psychological well being. This is why it’s also important to screen for mental health. 

Because we’re all unique, and our experiences and circumstances vary greatly, mental health symptoms are different for everyone. However, it’s important to acknowledge your emotions in the short-term, otherwise you could put yourself at risk for longer term complications, including the need to self-medicate using drugs and alcohol. 

Let’s take a closer look at how COVID-19 is affecting people’s mental health, signs to be on the lookout for and how to take charge of your emotional well being. 

The Implications of COVID-19 on Mental Health 

The pandemic has disrupted our lives in many ways, but mental health gets some of the least attention, probably because emotions aren’t exactly quantifiable. People react differently to change and stress, and one person’s way of adapting doesn’t necessarily mean they are or aren’t struggling with their mental health. 

Not to mention, it’s normal to have a wide range of emotions when going through an ongoing public health crisis. People have to grieve the things they’ve lost, including their freedoms and sense of security. Now even a simple trip to the dentist, grocery store or restaurant involves mask wearing and temperature checks. 

In July 2020, a KFF Tracking Poll found the following: 

  • 53% of U.S. adults reported their mental health was significantly impacted by the coronavirus
  • 36% had difficulty falling asleep
  • 32% had trouble eating 
  • 12% increased their alcohol consumption or drug use 
  • 12% experienced worsening in chronic conditions due to stress and worrying

As the pandemic wears on, it’s led to more isolation and job loss. Social isolation and loneliness are significant concerns because they can lead to poor mental health. With so many people sheltering in place, we’re seeing more depression, anxiety, distress and low self-esteem that may lead to higher rates of substance abuse and suicide. 

What are Some Signs of Stress? 

Stress manifests in different ways, and some people don’t even know they’re stressed until they see a doctor for trouble sleeping or a change in weight. Here are some of the signs that your mental health deserves some attention: 

  • Changes in appetite, energy and interests 
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions 
  • Feelings of fear, anger, sadness or worry
  • Worsening of mental or physical health conditions 
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances 

What Can I Do to Cope? 

Just because your mental health requires attention does not necessarily mean that you have a diagnosable mental health disorder or are in need of professional treatment. All it means is that you need to recognize what you’re feeling and find healthy ways to cope with your symptoms. Otherwise, you could put yourself at risk for further complications, including substance abuse. 

Here are some of the best ways to manage your emotions during the pandemic: 

  • Control your exposure to the news. It’s one thing to be informed, but it’s another to have constant reminders of the pandemic. Experts usually recommend no more than one hour a day. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Even three to five minutes a day can help improve your mood and offer a fresh perspective. Mindfulness meditation also lowers cortisol levels and quiets the mind. 
  • Exercise daily. Any type of physical activity is good for the brain. Don’t focus so much on how long you exercise for but rather getting into the routine of it. Yoga, walking and swimming are all great options.
  • Find ways to be social. Physical distancing is encouraged but you should look for ways to stay social. Visit people when you can keep a six-foot distance. Zoom with friends, send emails and text to family and volunteer for organizations that have safe procedures in place.
  • Take care of your body. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Get enough rest at night. Avoid the use of drugs and alcohol, especially for self-medication purposes. Also, continue your screenings and vaccinations. 

What if I Need Professional Help? 

If you are struggling to cope, rest assured there are plenty of ways you can get professional support. There is no reason to suffer in silence. You can contact your doctor for a list of referrals or you can get in touch with a treatment facility like Awakenings Treatment Center. 

Our holistic treatment facility in Agoura Hills, CA treats substance abuse problems, but we are also qualified to treat mental health disorders like depression, anxiety and PTSD. We have a wide range of therapies for our clients to try, including art therapy, neurofeedback, acupuncture, chiropractic care and massage therapy.

For the safety of our staff and clients, we are following all COVID guidelines and precautions. You are in good hands with us! Contact Awakenings Treatment Center to learn more about our treatment services that can come in handy during a time like this.