Staying Mentally Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With the uncertainty and evolving impact of COVID-19, it is natural to experience anxiety. Like any emotion, anxiety can spread from person to person. Following current recommendations for social distancing will help to limit the community spread of the virus, but it also can present its own challenges of isolation and loneliness. Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and director of the UCLA Longevity Center and UCLA’s Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, offers some tips to help navigate through these difficult times.

  • Be cautious about unreliable sources of information in the media. Rumors and distortions increase stress and anxiety levels. Turn to trusted sources of information so you can remain up-to-date on emerging situations.
  • Anyone overwhelmed with emotions should contact a mental health professional for assistance.
  • Repeatedly hearing about the pandemic can be unnecessarily upsetting for many people so take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, especially on social media.
  • To overcome isolation while sheltering in place, stay in touch with friends and family by phone, or use social media and videoconferencing platforms such as Skype, Zoom or FaceTime.
  • Keep to your daily routine as much as possible. If you are working from home, be sure to take your usual lunch break and maintain your daily habits.
  • Try to remain positive. Just as anxiety can spread from person to person, so can optimism and a positive outlook. Rather than focus on worse-case-scenarios, be mindful of what you are grateful for during these trying times.
  • If you are feeling anxious, take deep breaths, stretch, do some yoga or meditate.
  • Try to eat well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid excessive alcohol use.
  • Try to stay physically active. Search online to find available videos for simple ways to stay active, such as chair exercises.
  • Talk about your concerns with people you trust. Sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the true risk to yourself and people you care about will reduce your anxiety.
  • Relaxation practices can help reduce levels of stress. The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center provides a variety of options for people interested in learning methods to pay attention to present moment experiences with openness. Click here and search under “Free Programming and Resources.”


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