As a mom, you know it’s important to take care of your mental health, not just for yourself but also for those who love and rely on you. But that can be challenging when you combine the stresses of motherhood with the anxiety generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parenting has added challenges as a result of COVID-19. Many parents juggle child care while working from home or have engaged in teaching duties during their kids’ virtual school. Some people lost loved ones, some lost jobs, and all of us lost a little bit of the security we used to feel pre-pandemic. Who wouldn’t feel anxious with all that pandemic stress? Managing your mental health is always a priority, especially now.
How the Pandemic Affects Mental Health
You’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed when it comes to struggling with health-related anxiety. An estimated 27.2% of American adults reported anxiety symptoms between January 26 and February 7, 2022, according to the Household Pulse Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau.
The physical and psychological symptoms of pandemic-induced anxiety and depression can take a toll in all areas of your life:
- Increased fatigue
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- Digestive problems
- Appetite and weight changes
- Mood swings (anger, irritability)
- A deep, lasting sadness
- Lack of focus or concentration
- Inability to find joy or pleasure in favorite activities
- Irrational fear (anxiety)
- Feelings of guilt or hopelessness (depression)
As you can see, these debilitating symptoms can make it hard to function in daily life, especially when it comes to parenting. It’s hard to keep up with an active toddler, for instance, if you are exhausted, or you may lose your patience and snap at your child or partner when you’re overly irritable.
Anxiety or depression may also raise the risk of substance abuse issues. Some people may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their COVID-related anxiety or depression. And it can be tough to feel motivated to take care of yourself mentally and physically, but missing doctor’s appointments or screening tests for mental or physical health issues can make the problem even worse.
It’s crucial to find strategies to help lessen any stress you’re feeling as a result of pandemic anxiety or depression. Taking care of your health and well-being will make it easier to take care of your family. If you’re waking up with anxiety, let’s look at some coping methods that may help you feel better.
How to Beat Your Health Fears: Healthy Ways to Cope
Whenever possible, tune out the bad news about the pandemic and tune into the blessings of your life. Develop a gratitude practice (even a quick 5-minute meditation works) to develop a positive mindset.
Take care of yourself with healthy habits. Proper diet, exercise, and plenty of sleep can help you feel stronger physically and mentally. This can help alleviate any COVID anxiety symptoms.
Don’t catastrophize any signs of illness. You don’t automatically have COVID if you get a cough or have a runny nose. Take a breath to get calm. Then, take a COVID test or call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
Don’t isolate yourself. You may be anxious about leaving your house for errands or work, especially if you have young children who can’t be vaccinated yet or you care for older relatives who are immunocompromised.
Take the proper health precautions. You may wash your hands well with soap and water after you’ve been outside the home or wear a mask in public if it makes you more comfortable and is recommended by your local health department.
Get your health information from reliable sources. There’s plenty of fear-mongering and misinformation about COVID-19 on social media and the Internet. Talk with your healthcare provider if you need trusted information to help ease your health-related anxiety.
Seeking Professional Help
If your symptoms of anxiety or depression are occurring almost every day, and they’ve been going on for more than two weeks, check in with your physician. You may want a psychological evaluation that could diagnose a mental health condition. This could help you towards treatment, typically medication or a talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
For anyone on mental health treatment already, for anxiety, postpartum depression, or another condition, it may be time to review the current treatment plan to make sure it’s working, especially if you’ve been experiencing anxiety or depression symptoms. If antidepressants or talk therapy aren’t getting you results, it may be beneficial to discuss alternative therapies with your mental health provider.
One such treatment is transcranial magnetic stimulation. This non-invasive, non-sedating treatment uses gentle magnetic pulses targeting specific areas of the brain to help ease symptoms of major depressive disorder, which often overlaps with anxiety.
Remember that you’re not alone if you’re struggling with pandemic stress that’s turned into anxiety. Reach out for help. We can all get through this together.
Dr. Steven Harvey joined Greenbrook TMS in March 2018 as Regional Medical Director of our Greater St. Louis region. He is board-certified in general psychiatry and has been practicing since 1996 since earning his medical degree from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Harvey’s interest in TMS therapy was first sparked during his residency, and in 2013 he began practicing TMS therapy.