Coming Out of COVID-19: The Emotional Toll You Might Not Expect

Living within stay-at-home orders during COVID-19 may have tested your mental and emotional well-being in a new way. There are many different ways to cope with COVID-19 and the impact it can take on one’s emotional health may vary. Recognizing mental and emotional changes may help you manage those emotions and emerge with the tools to help you enter life after the pandemic. 

woman in the city wearing a mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you might notice that you have some of the following:

  • Feelings of grief, fear or depression
  • Disruptions to eating and sleeping patterns
  • Difficulties with concentration and focus
  • An increased use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs

The Department of Homeland Security recommends taking these steps to help promote your physical and emotional healing:

  • Connect with your existing support groups of family, friends or others to talk about your emotions or concerns. 
  • Prioritize healthy habits including nutritious eating, good sleep routines, exercise, relaxation and meditation as you return to your pre-quarantine routine. 
  • Maintain a daily routine in your “new normal” as you head back to a workplace setting and emerge into society, limiting demanding responsibilities on yourself and your family.

In addition, to get through a time of stress, the American Psychological Association (APA) says it is important to remember to build resilience. The APA says it may help to anticipate the difficulty of transitions after adversity. We can do this by:

  • Allowing time to adjust.
    • Give yourself permission to mourn the losses you may have experienced and be patient with changes in your emotional health.
  • Avoiding making major life decisions.
    • Big decisions may be more stressful in their own right and even more difficult to take on when recovering from a traumatic event.
  • Being proactive about your hardships.
    • Ask yourself the question, “What can I do about the problem in my life?” 
    • If the problem seems too big, break it down into manageable pieces. 
    • Taking the initiative may help you build motivation and muster purpose during stressful times.
  • Finding a local support group led by trained professionals.
    • Empathetic people may remind you that you are not alone in times of difficulty.  
  • Keeping things in perspective.
    • Try to adopt a balanced way of thinking. 
    • You may not be able to control what’s happening in the world, but you can help make efforts to control how you respond to it. 
  • Maintaining an optimistic outlook.
    • It may be difficult to remain positive but focusing on what you want versus what you fear may help you feel better.  

The road to resilience may be strengthened with practice over time, but part of that crucial process may be getting help when you need it. If stress is interfering with your daily activities and causing anxiety that feels overwhelming, call your health care provider or consider reaching out to a professional crisis counselor for support in your recovery.