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Taking Care of Your Mental Health

If you are feeling stress, grief, or anxiety during this time, you are not alone. Find ideas for what could help at HowRightNow.

Sadness, fear, worry, or other emotions can affect us during or after tough situations, like dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of a family member or friend, or experiences related to racism. Dealing with these challenges can weigh heavily on your mental health, and recent data suggest this is the case for many who have sought professional help with their mental health since the pandemic started.

Increases in mental health-related ED visits

Recent research suggests that some racial and ethnic minority groups have been more affected by mental health challenges related to the pandemic. According to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry,external icon these groups had significant increases in emergency department (ED) visits for new and existing mental disorders during and after a COVID-19 case surge.

  • Asian adults had increases in the number of visits for most of the mental disorders that the study looked at, including a 21% increase in ED visits with depression during a COVID-19 surge.
  • American Indian and Alaska Native adults had increases in the number of ED visits for multiple mental disorders after a COVID-19 surge, including a 42% increase in trauma and stressor-related visits.
  • There was a 24% increase in ED visits for bipolar disorder among Hispanic adults and a 14% increase in trauma and stressor disorder-related visits among Black adults after a surge.

Mental Health Impact of Stress

It’s natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during challenging times. Feeling strong emotions or being stressed can have negative effects on your health. Stress can cause the following:

  • Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration.
  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, or interests.
  • Problems concentrating or making decisions.
  • Nightmares or problems sleeping.
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, or skin rashes.
  • Worsening of chronic diseases and mental health conditions.
  • Overeating or not eating enough.
  • Increased use of alcohol, illegal drugs (like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine), and misuse of prescription drugs (like opioids).

Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will help you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient. You can help yourself, others, and your community manage stress in the following ways.

  • Take breaks from news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed, but constant discouraging information can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from your phone, TV, and computer screens for a while.

Finding What Helps

How Right Now is a communications campaign designed to promote and strengthen the emotional well-being and resiliency of people negatively affected by COVID-19–related stress, grief, and loss. How Right Now offers resources and support for people who feel:

Conversations and Coping

If you are overwhelmed or feeling any of the emotions above, talking with friends, neighbors, and loved ones about your feelings and concerns can relieve stress and promote resilience. How Right Now also has tools you can use to start a conversation, including:

Research Data Source

The JAMA Psychiatry analysis used electronic health record data on emergency department visits from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP). NSSP receives data from over 71% of emergency departments in the United States. The near real-time nature of these data allows for rapid assessment of changes in visit trends for nearly any health condition.

  • Take care of your body:
    • Get vaccinated and stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines.
    • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products. Eating well also means limiting saturated fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.
    • Going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends, can help you sleep better (adults need 7 or more hours per night).
    • Move more and sit less. Every little bit of physical activity helps. You can start small and build up to 150 minutes a week that can be broken down to smaller amounts such as 20 to 30 minutes a day.
    • Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.external icon
    • Limit alcohol intake. Choose not to drink, or drink in moderation (one drink a day for women, two for men) on days that alcohol is consumed.
    • Avoid using prescription drugs in ways other than prescribed, taking someone else’s prescription, or using illegal drugs. Treatmentexternal icon is available and recovery starts with asking for help.external icon
    • Avoid smoking and the use of other tobacco products. People can and do quit smoking for good.
    • Continue with regular health appointments, testing, and screening, especially those for cancer.
  • Make time to unwind. Take a break from your routine to do activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. If you can’t take part in group activities right now, try connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.