The #StayHome campaign is saving lives. Four percent of all tests have returned positive in Minnesota compared to our neighbors in Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota who have rates between seven and nine percent. These figures suggest Minnesotans are having more success with social distancing in an effort to flatten the curve.
While we are having success in this area, social distancing may lead many individuals to feel isolated and stressed. Both isolation and stress can be a risk factors in worsening symptoms of a chronic mental health problem and may increase probability of relapse for patients with substance use disorders.
In addition, social distancing and exposure to constant news updates regarding COVID-19 may lead to feelings of overwhelming anxiety and fear even in those without a chronic mental health problem. Stress may lead to:
- Increase or decrease of time sleeping or change in quality of sleep
- Increase or decrease in normal eating patterns
- Worsening mood or anxiety
- Onset of anxiety
- Onset of sadness
- Worsening agoraphobia or fear of open spaces
- Increased concern about your health
- Increased use of unhealthy coping behaviors such as use of alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs
While some outpatient therapy has changed to tele-health, which is difficult for some individuals, and while some treatment programs have been temporarily discontinued, there are new resources such as a dedicated COVID-19 line.
In addition, many resources remain in place to provide support. There also many skills and behaviors you may adjust or add independently to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some tools that you can utilize to combat stress:
- Eating healthy, well-balanced meals
- Maintaining structure in your day
- Getting dressed and maintaining normal hygiene routines
- Limiting news coverage and screen time
- Developing a new hobby or skill
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding illicit drugs
- Making an effort to decrease use of nicotine, if you’re a smoker
- Scheduling a contact with a friend or family member each day either by phone or a written note
- Calm: offering free content to support your mental and emotional wellness
- Smiling Mind: an app for adults and children seeking to cope with daily stress. The app is based upon mindfulness.
- Hay House: provides access to movies, podcasts, meditations, articles, and ebooks.
- Headspace-Weathering: an app that includes meditations, sleep, and movement exercises.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
Texting MN to 741741
651-288-0400 or text “Support” to 85511
Hennepin County Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies (COPE), 612-596-1223
Regions Hospital Emergency Center 651-254-1000
Minnesota LinkVet: 1-888-LinkVet (888-546-5838)
1-800-SUICIDE 1-800-784-2433 www.hopeline.com
1-800-273-TALK (8255) www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
If you need assistance finding food, paying housing bills, or other essential services, dial 211, 651-291-0211 or 1-800-543-7709 or Text MNCOVID to 898211.
If you need to make an appointment with a provider, visit www.Fast-TrackerMN.org
If you have a question about COVID-19, call the Department of Health at 800-657-3903 or 651-201-3920 Monday through Friday.
Dr. Dionne Hart is a graduate of the Mayo Clinic College of Graduate Medicine. She is board certified in psychiatry and addiction medicine. She practices community and public psychiatry at multiple sites. She’s held multiple leadership positions in national, state, and local medical organizations including serving as the first chair of the American Medical Association’s Minority Affairs Section. She currently serves as the president of the Minnesota Association of African American Physicians, a future statewide chapter of the National Medical Association.