Abrupt changes to routine and uncertainty about the future are causing stress and anxiety for many as Michiganders and people across the country grapple with cases of COVID-19. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the West Coast Chamber of Commerce recently partnered to present a webinar to chamber members focused on strategies for dealing with mental health through the pandemic. “In times of uncertainty and anxiety, it’s vitally important to know we’re not alone,” said Sandy Ham, regional sales manager, West Shore Region, BCBSM. Sarah Lewakowski is the executive director of Mosaic Counseling, based in Grand Haven. She said certain populations are more susceptible to mental distress due to the ongoing pandemic. These groups include:
- Higher-risk individuals (those who are older or with underlying health issues)
- Health care providers and first responders
- Essential workers
- People with underlying mental health conditions
- People with substance use issues
- Children and teens
“It is important to know that this is normal,” Lewakowski said. “It’s also important to know that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.” Signs of anxiety and stress include excessive fear and worry, changes in normal sleep patterns, trouble concentrating, changes in eating patterns, worsening of chronic health conditions and self-medicating with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. It’s understandable to have feelings of despair, Lewakowski said. “We have all lost control of our daily routines and the way that life was,” she said. People should try to focus on ways they can take back control as it relates to mental and overall health. Lewakowski offered these suggestions:
- Take breaks from watching and reading the news. “Don’t watch the news constantly. It can be really depressing,” she said.
- Take care of your body. Make time for centering activities such as deep breathing, prayer, meditation, stretching or yoga. Focus on healthy, immune-boosting foods as much as you can and try to move your body daily through exercise. Focus on getting enough sleep.
- Stay socially connected. While we need to keep a physical distance from others, there’s no reason to not connect virtually to keep your social connections thriving.
- Try journaling. If your thoughts resemble a pinball whizzing around, the act of writing down what you’re feeling can help you slow them down. “You can only write one word down at a time,” Lewakowski said.
For those feeling particularly down, remember that this won’t last forever. “Try really hard to search for those bits of light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “This is going to end. This is going to get better.” Watch the full webinar here to listen to Lewakowski’s advice on sheltering in place with kids, how employers can reach out to their employees and how to recognize when a friend or loved one might need mental health help beyond what you can provide. If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Editor’s note: Mosaic Counseling is a community provider. If you are a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or Blue Care Network member, please check to make sure services are covered with the provider contracted through Mosaic you’ll be seeing. Read more about managing mental health through the coronavirus pandemic:
- Strategies to Manage Your Coronavirus Stress and Anxiety
- Helping Teens Cope Through Coronavirus
- Easing Kids’ Concerns about Coronavirus
- Blue Cross Extends No-Cost Telehealth Services to June 30 and Includes Behavioral Health Providers
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