CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As the coronavirus pandemic intensifies, our emotional and mental health can take a significant hit. Spectrum News reporter Kari Beal sat down with Ward Blanchard, a licensed therapist in Charlotte, to discuss how to cope in high-stress times.
How should people deal with anxiety as a result of coronavirus concerns?
“As human beings, our biological need is to be safe, secure, and connected. This epidemic challenges all three of those. The first element of awareness and how to deal with anxiety, stress, depression, is to realize that having anxiety is a very normal response.”
For some people who are working long hours, particularly healthcare workers, how should they address their mental health? We need them to stay healthy and help everybody else.
“When it comes to the physical exhaustion or the emotional exhaustion, you should be confident and secure enough in your workplace to say, ‘Hey, I need a break right now. I need to have some healthy detachment and come back. I am worn out and exhausted.” When people push these boundaries, careless mistakes are made. They are trying to do the right thing and trying always to be there. In actuality, when you are stressed and physically exhausted and emotionally worn out, that is the time that you put yourself and others more at risk.”
How should parents handle stress related to work and now children being home?
“The first thing to do is to have a conversation with your family and kids. Communicate to them what is going on and establish a routine. If working from home, set up a separate workspace and give your children boundaries.”
We are being bombarded with a lot of information on the coronavirus, whether it be online or on tv. How should we handle all that?
“Don’t be completely obsessed with the news coverage and keep informed with vetted news services. Create time to do puzzles or board games, or go outside and walk the dog.”
If you are pregnant or have a pre-existing condition, it is very important you keep yourself healthy during this time, but that can be particularly challenging, so how should people address that?
“It is even more important that these individuals stay prevalent in their routines, in their exercise, and taking breaks throughout the day. Also, to make sure they get out in the sunshine if the weather is good enough.”
Several people are taking a financial hit right now because of event cancellations, closures, etc. How should they address their mental health?
“Recognize that these are unprecedented times. There is no point in history that we can go back and predict what is going to happen in the future. Recognize what is in your control and not in your control. Second of all, this is a time to lean on our neighbors. Reach out and ask people for help. The other part of that is our responsibility for those members who can offer support, to reach out and say., ‘hey, can I be of help, can I be of service.’
How should those in quarantine manage their mental health?
“The best thing that you can do is communicate to those who are in your support network. FaceTime and mobile technology allow you to show up for your loved one in a very visual way. That allows you to stay connected to your support network. Recognize that it is normal to feel lonely and anxious in that situation, and it’s okay.”
What is the worst thing for people to do for their mental health right now?
“To not take this seriously. And to not feel their sense of duty to themselves, their families, or their neighbors. Respect social distancing, don’t just think this is a big joke. They need to realize we are in a very serious circumstance, and it’s unprecedented that we haven’t seen before.”