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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.

Impact of the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for many people. Some groups may be more affected than others. Studies about mental health found inconsistent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on different racial and ethnic groups. One study found elevated depressive symptoms, and fear of COVID-19 among racial and ethnic populations (combined) compared with White people. Another study found symptoms of adverse mental or behavioral health conditions were more common among Hispanic and Black people compared with White people.

However, another study found that compared with White young adults (aged 18-30 years), Asian American young adults were less likely to report high levels of poor mental health symptoms, including depression, and both Asian American and Hispanic or Latino young adults were less likely to report high levels of anxiety. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health may be influenced by the intersection of age, income, employment, and other social factors, in addition to race and ethnicity.

Grief and Loss

Many people are experiencing grief during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grief is a normal response to loss during or after a disaster or other traumatic event. Grief can happen in response to loss of life, as well as to drastic changes in daily routines and ways of life that usually bring us comfort and a feeling of stability. Some groups may be more likely to experience loss of a loved one due to COVID-19. Black people were found to be more likely to have a close relative who died from COVID-19.

Social Determinants of Health

Inequities in the social determinants of health increase the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for some racial and ethnic groups. We need to work together to reduce the negative effects that COVID-19 has had on individuals and communities, including working to address inequities in the social determinants of health. Learn more about  what we can do to move towards health equity.

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:

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).

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:

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.

  • 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.

    • 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. Treatment is available and recovery starts with asking for help.

    • 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.

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