As many states and cities implement stay-at-home protocols and individuals are quarantined with symptoms or potential exposure, staying well, both mentally and physically is everyone’s key priority. Whether you are a parent, caregiver or just trying to get through the day, here are some tips for dealing with your mental health, helping your child learn ways to manage stress, and helping support the older adults in your life during a quarantine.
The information included in this post is provided by Optum®, AllWays Health Partners’ behavioral health partner.
Mental health tips during a quarantine
People react differently to stressful situations, and the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, may cause feelings ranging from concern or worry to anxiety or anger, among many other possible reactions.
If you and your household are under quarantine — whether self-quarantine or otherwise — you may be feeling a number of emotions including feeling anxious, lonely, bored or frustrated. It’s important to understand your feelings during this time and pay attention to your mental health.
Here are some tips for helping take care of your mental health during this time.
- Look for ways to relax. Find things that help you manage stress. Consider trying deep breathing, stretching or meditation. There are also apps that may help you deal with stress.
- Set boundaries. While it’s important to have up-to-date, reliable information, you should limit exposure to the ever-present media coverage.
- Create regular routines. For example, consider setting up a regular routine for physical activity, communicating and connecting with others and continuing other day-to-day habits.
- Make a list. Gather a list of contacts, including friends, family, neighbors, health care providers, as well as any therapists or counselors, and other community resources. Place it somewhere prominent in your home, for example, on your refrigerator.
- Check your medications. Make sure you have any prescription and/or over-the-counter medications you need. Take your prescriptions as recommended. If possible, the recommendation is to have a two-week supply on hand. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to learn how you can obtain what you need.
- Define how you’ll stay connected. Establish how you’ll communicate with friends and family through available methods — text, phone calls, over the internet or even through letters in the mail. Consider “face-to-face” time using apps that allow you to video chat with others.
- Keep up with healthy habits. Your physical health is an important part of your mental health, during a quarantine and always. Avoid using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs to try to manage stress. Get plenty of rest and physical activity.
- Be aware of stress. A quarantine may cause additional stress. For example, you may experience financial stress if you are unable to work. Talk with your employer about why you may be missing work. If need be, contact the U.S. Department of Labor at 1-866-487-2365 about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA offers employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for dealing with a serious medical condition for yourself or to care for a loved one.
Tips to help older adults during a quarantine
Older adults are at higher risk for serious illness from the Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. If you and your household are under quarantine — whether self-quarantine or otherwise — here are some tips for caregivers to help support older adults during this time.
- Understand medications and medical supplies. Make sure you know about all prescription and/or over-the-counter medications and medical supplies, such as diabetes test strips and oxygen, your loved one needs. See if it’s possible to have extra medication and supplies available. The recommendation is to have a two-week supply on hand, if possible. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to learn how you can obtain what you need.
- Create a plan for food and other supplies. Take stock of food in your household as well as additional necessities, such as toilet paper, pet food, and forms of entertainment, such as books. Establish who will arrange food or supply delivery, if need be, including prepared meals. Know how much is needed. Create a back-up plan.
- Understand protocol for care facilities. If your loved one is in a care facility, make sure you understand protocols for visitations, communication, infection control and the provision of medical care.
- Stay connected. Establish how you’ll communicate with your loved one. Set a regular time of day to call and check in. Consider several methods of staying connected, such as phone calls, text messaging, email, social media and/or face-to-face computer time. Cards or letters by mail may also help an older adult stay engaged.
- Make a list of emergency contacts. Have a list of phone numbers of family, friends, neighbors, health care providers, the local health department and other community organizations. Post the list in a central location in your household, for example, on a refrigerator. Make sure your loved one also has this listed posted with easy access.
- Know about community resources. If your loved one depends on community support and services (for example, an organization that delivers meals), make sure their needs are being met. Know who to contact for additional resources.
Tips to help children during a quarantine
People deal with stress in different ways, and children and teens may respond more intensely to it than others. Helping your child learn ways to manage stress is important, especially given the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19.
It’s important for parents to recognize when their children may be experiencing stress. Signs may include:
- Changes in eating or sleeping
- Alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use
- Acting clingy, withdrawn or anxious
- Trouble paying attention or concentrating
- Headaches or other body aches with no explanation
- Withdrawing from school or activities they used to enjoy
- Going back to behaviors they’ve grown out of, like bedwetting
- Excessive crying or being irritable, as well as “acting out” such as outbursts of anger
If you and your household are under quarantine — whether self-quarantine or otherwise — here are some tips to help support your children during this time.
- Share information. Talk with your children about COVID-19 explaining things at their level. Listen and answer any questions they may have.
- Help them feel secure. Be reassuring about their safety. Validate their feelings — it is OK to feel upset. You can also share how you manage stress to help them learn from you.
- Define boundaries. Limit exposure to news coverage. This includes social media. Make sure your children know they can ask questions at any time.
- Create regular routines. If there is a school closure, set a regular schedule for learning, making sure to include fun activities, too.
- Set a good example. Show your children ways to stay healthy during a quarantine. Maintain healthy eating habits, and get plenty of rest and physical activity.
- Stay connected. Establish how you’ll communicate with friends and family through available methods — text, phone calls, over the internet or even through letters in the mail.
If you are concerned about how stress may be affecting your child, speak with your child's doctor for guidance.