COVID-19: Taking Care of Your Mental Health Matters More Than Ever

April 27, 2020

Human beings are creatures of habit: we crave routine, dependability, and stability in our daily lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped a lot of that out, with many of us having to adjust to being with our families or completely isolated, 24/7. The fear of the health and economic effects, and not knowing when things will get back to normal, can result in stress, anxiety, and depression.

At AltaMed, we want to encourage you to think about your mental health and provide the support you may need. We understand that many people do not feel comfortable admitting they’re having problems, but the more we talk about what we’re going through, the more obvious it becomes that these issues are a normal part of life. There’s no shame in asking for help!

We’re All Grieving for the Lives We Used to Have

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Unfortunately, none of us know what the future holds. With the fear that we’ll never get back to “normal,” there can be a sense of loss.

Many of us are also struggling with our schedules being disrupted, which can lead to a feeling of loss of control. Those feelings can spiral into anxiety and depression. If this sounds like you, it may help to create and stick to a routine.

Aim to go to bed at the same time every night, and try to get a minimum of 7 – 8 hours of quality sleep (kids need even more) so you can start each day right. In addition to work and home responsibilities, build in time for exercise, socializing with friends online or over the phone, and self-care.

And don’t forget the little things – especially brushing your teeth three times a day. It may be more difficult to get dental appointments, so give yourself and your family one less thing to worry about.

You Don’t Have to Be Strong All the Time

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Many of us are trying to set a good example and be strong for our children, our partners, and those who depend on us. It’s OK to admit that you’re scared, too. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, don’t bury these feelings. Reach out to those you’re closest to and tell them how you feel.

Do whatever you can to maintain your close connections and then lean in – the risks of loneliness and isolation during times like this are great, and so are the consequences.

Find a Way to Deal with Stress

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Living through long periods of stress can trigger bad behaviors – for example, drinking too much or using drugs. Too much stress for too long can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more. It’s more important than ever to find a healthy way to deal with stress.

Adults aren’t the only ones experiencing stress during the pandemic: your kids, being out of school and away from their friends and relatives, are going through stress, too. Talk to them honestly about it and listen to what they have to say. Then look for activities you can do together to help take the pressure off. Maybe it’s having a virtual dance party or going for a walk or bike-ride – just don’t forget to maintain your physical distance from others and wear a mask.

Give Yourself a Break

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Most of us have never been through anything as intense as the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s taking a lot out of us, physically and emotionally. It may be harder to keep up – with house cleaning, working out, achieving personal goals you might have made like losing weight or exercising more. And that’s OK – you don’t have to be perfect, and you’re not a failure. It’s still important to set goals and expectations, but think about revising them or think about breaking them down into small steps.

For example, if you’re frustrated because your house has gotten messy, instead of aiming for perfection, figure out a way to enlist your family in a chore every day. If you had the goal of losing 15 pounds, put the scale in the closet but continue to focus on eating healthy foods and moving as much as you can during the day. Concentrate on what you achieve every day and celebrate your success.

However, there’s one goal that’s more important than ever: quitting smoking, vaping, or any tobacco use.

If You Smoke, Now is a Great Time to Quit

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Even if you think having a cigarette or two can help you get through the day, here’s why there’s never been a better time to quit. Smoking or vaping makes you even more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections, and there’s evidence that secondhand smoke puts your family members at risk, too.

We know it can be difficult, but you can do it, and we can put you in touch with resources that can help.

We’re Here for You

It’s natural to feel worried, sad, and lonely right now, but if these feelings start interfering with your ability to get through your daily life or start making you feel bad physically, it may be time to ask for help. To learn more about our Behavioral Health Services, call us at (855) 425-1777.

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

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Protect Your Lungs, Protect Yourself from COVID-19

April 14, 2020

We’re going to level with you: the best ways to protect yourself from coronavirus are washing your hands, social distancing, and staying home. But you can still be proactive about your lungs.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that hits frail people, such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems harder, and it attacks the lungs. None of these tips are foolproof but taking these steps now will help you breathe easier – both physically and mentally.

Quit Vaping or Smoking Now

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Public health officials are concerned that those who vape could be more vulnerable to severe cases of coronavirus. Vaping is still so new that we still don’t have much research on its effects, but we do know that it can damage and weaken your lungs, and even kill you. For decades, we’ve known about the dangers of smoking, and specifically, the damage it can cause to the lungs. If you smoke or you vape, this is the time to take charge of your health and quit.

Increase Your Activity Level

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Even as few as 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day, five times a week, can improve your ability to inhale, hold, and exhale large volumes of breath. That means cardio like brisk walking or running, biking, or jumping rope. Give strength-training some space in your exercise routine, since exercises like weight-lifting and Pilates strengthen your diaphragm and “teach” your body to breathe more deeply and more effectively.

Try Yoga

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Yoga isn’t exercise in the same way running or weight-lifting is but yoga provides its own unique set of benefits. Yoga helps you focus on taking big, deep breaths to oxygenate your body. Yoga can help improve your posture. Plus, yoga provides stress-relieving benefits that we could all use some more of right now.

Get Your Flu Shots Every Year

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While it’s true (at least for now) that there is no coronavirus vaccine and the flu shots only protect you for the latest version of the flu, it’s still important that you and every member of your family get age-appropriate vaccines. Many strains of flu actively attack the respiratory system and can even lead to death.

Because COVID-19 symptoms can be similar to flu symptoms, getting your flu shot can protect your peace of mind, too.

Minimize Your Exposure to Pollutants

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Believe it or not, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that indoor pollution is worse than outdoor pollution. Take steps to reduce your exposure to harmful pollutants and toxins that can damage your lungs over the long term – especially as you ramp up your cleaning routine to fight COVID-19 and shelter at home.

  • Dust the furniture and vacuum at least once a week.
  • Keep your house as clean as possible to guard against mold, dust, and pet dander.
  • Use all-natural cleaning products if you can.
  • Open the windows when you clean.
  • Ditch synthetic air fresheners and candles.
  • Improve ventilation: if you can, spend more time with your doors and windows open. You can also use window fans and air conditioners that send their exhaust outdoors.

Take a Deep Breath…You’ve Got This!

AltaMed is here to support you and your family with complete health services and the latest news and information on COVID-19, including resources for parents with kids at home as well as a frequently updated FAQ page. Remember, we’re your community health network, and we’re here to help!

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.