Expert Pitch
University of Michigan

Coronavirus: Social distancing can exacerbate existing mental health concerns in an already stressful time.

30-Mar-2020 2:55 PM EDT, by University of Michigan

Social connection is a primary way to cope with mental health difficulties and stress. At a time when much of the population is practicing social distancing due to the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus, losing direct connection with friends, colleagues and extended family can exacerbate existing mental health concerns in an already stressful time.

Alison Miller

Alison Miller, associate professor of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, explains methods for managing stress as well as who may be vulnerable to added mental health and stress impacts during this time.

What do we know about social interaction and how has it been impacted by the spread of COVID-19?

In general, humans are social creatures and we value our relationships with other people. So in times of stress, our instinct is often to reach out to others in our social groups to help ourselves feel better, whether that is to be comforted by a friend or a loved one, or to do the same for other people. When we can’t do this, we may feel helpless or lonely, and this may interfere with our ability to cope effectively with stress.

When there’s a big event happening in our environment—such as the spread of COVID-19—our instinct is often to connect with other people to seek support, or discuss the situation and gain perspective as methods of coping. Because COVID-19 is spread through person-to-person contact, our normal avenues for social interaction in the physical world have changed and need to be conducted virtually. This may feel less effective and less soothing than connecting in person because we’re not used to it as our primary form of connection.

Are there particular groups who are especially vulnerable to additional stress during this time?

Health care workers are an important population to consider, as they are on the front lines of this epidemic, often with limited supplies to protect themselves. Gig economy workers like Uber drivers and food delivery service members have also been mentioned a lot in the news recently. These jobs are really important for making sure people are able to get groceries or necessities, but these individuals are not able to stay home and self-isolate in a way that they could do if they were working from home. Instead, they are interacting with larger numbers of people, which could place them at greater risk for contracting COVID-19.

In addition, there are significant financial implications for other individuals who have lower incomes and who may already be living at the margins, for example, people who may have unstable housing conditions, limited health insurance and/or temporary employment. I’ve spoken with people who are worried about what the implications of a reduction in hours or job loss may do for their income, as well as their access to food, health care and shelter. These are important groups we need to be thinking about both when we make recommendations for immediate social and physical distancing, as well as in considering longer-term recommendations going forward.

What approaches can help people overcome the mental health challenges and stress of living through a global pandemic and needing to practice social distancing?

Even if you’re physically distanced from people, there are many things you can do to socially connect with others. Now may be a great opportunity to reach out and connect with an old friend who you don’t have time to call on a regular basis. Reaching out to people who are in the areas that are being hit hard by COVID-19 might be important to do at this time. People are even hosting virtual birthday parties, happy hours and concerts to connect in times of social distancing.

When we’re experiencing stress, the stress systems in our body are activated, which makes sense but can be harmful if kept up indefinitely. Learning deep breathing or muscle relaxation exercises can directly help to calm our biological stress response. There are apps and videos that can help you engage in these behaviors. Physical movement or exercise also provide a range of benefits, including reducing stress and improving mental health. Consider taking a walk outside (if you’re healthy and staying at a 6-foot distance from others). There’s research that shows that even looking at nature can help calm stress.

Another thing to think about is how much you’re monitoring the current COVID-19 situation and how much news you’re consuming. It’s extremely important to be informed, but if the information is causing a lot of stress for you, it may be best to limit how often you’re watching the news or reading articles. Perhaps limit yourself to viewing the news twice a day. You’ll hear about big news. Don’t look at the news before going to bed because it can interfere with sleep, and we all need sleep in order to cope. No one handles stress well in an overtired state.

And finally, along the lines of positive well-being, it’s important to engage in positive emotional experiences and reflect on positive things during a stressful time; this can actually reduce our stress as well. Think about things that you’re grateful for, do acts of kindness for others, deliver letters to your neighbors. There are many positive activities we can all participate in while still practicing social (really, physical) distancing.




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 2527
Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:50 PM EDT
Genetic ‘fingerprints’ of first COVID-19 cases help manage pandemic
University of Sydney

A new study published in the world-leading journal Nature Medicine, reveals how genomic sequencing and mathematical modelling gave important insights into the ‘parentage’ of cases and likely spread of the disease in New South Wales.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:35 PM EDT
Our itch to share helps spread COVID-19 misinformation
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

To stay current about the Covid-19 pandemic, people need to process health information when they read the news. Inevitably, that means people will be exposed to health misinformation, too, in the form of false content, often found online, about the illness.

Newswise: Pandemic Inspires Framework for Enhanced Care in Nursing Homes
Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:25 PM EDT
Pandemic Inspires Framework for Enhanced Care in Nursing Homes
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

As of May 2020, nursing home residents account for a staggering one-third of the more than 80,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the U.S. This pandemic has resulted in unprecedented threats—like reduced access to resources needed to contain and eliminate the spread of the virus—to achieving and sustaining care quality even in the best nursing homes. Active engagement of nursing home leaders in developing solutions responsive to the unprecedented threats to quality standards of care delivery is required.

Newswise: General Electric Healthcare Chooses UH to Clinically 
Evaluate First-of-its-kind Imaging System
Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:15 PM EDT
General Electric Healthcare Chooses UH to Clinically Evaluate First-of-its-kind Imaging System
University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center

University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center physicians completed evaluation for the GE Healthcare Critical Care Suite, and the technology is now in daily clinical practice – flagging between seven to 15 collapsed lungs per day within the hospital. No one on the team could have predicted the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this technology and future research with GEHC may enhance the capability to improve care for COVID-19 patients in the ICU. Critical Care Suite is now assisting in COVID and non-COVID patient care as the AMX 240 travels to intensive care units within the hospital.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 11:50 AM EDT
COVID-19 Can Be Transmitted in the Womb, Reports Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal
Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins

A baby girl in Texas – born prematurely to a mother with COVID-19 – is the strongest evidence to date that intrauterine (in the womb) transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can occur, reports The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, the official journal of The European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 9:45 AM EDT
How COVID-19 Shifted Inpatient Imaging Utilization
Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute

As medical resources shifted away from elective and non-urgent procedures toward emergent and critical care of COVID-19 patients, departments were forced to reconfigure their personnel and resources. In particular, many Radiology practices rescheduled non-urgent and routine imaging according to recommendations from the American College of Radiology (ACR). This new Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute study, published online in the Journal of American College of Radiology (JACR), evaluates the change in the inpatient imaging volumes and composition mix during the COVID-19 pandemic within a large healthcare system.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 12-Jul-2020 7:00 PM EDT Released to reporters: 10-Jul-2020 9:00 AM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 12-Jul-2020 7:00 PM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 9:00 AM EDT
Team is first in Texas to investigate convalescent plasma for prevention of COVID-19 onset and progression
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

A research team is the first in Texas to investigate whether plasma from COVID-19 survivors can be used in outpatient settings to prevent the onset and progression of the virus in two new clinical trials at UTHealth.


Showing results

110 of 2527

close
1.9621