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7 Tips to Better Manage Your Emotional Health during the Pandemic

To help New Yorkers struggling with depression and anxiety over COVID-19, NYC Health + Hospitals Social Worker Alberto Perez offers some stress-relieving strategies

For many New Yorkers, it may feel like there’s no escape from coronavirus, with the endless news headlines and its impact on our families, friends, and communities.

“It has been chaos, and that causes stress,” said Alberto Perez, a social worker at NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan. “We’re dealing with a lot.”

Perez helps patients in the behavioral health unit cope with their emotions and also with events in their life. Lately, he said, because of the pandemic, more people have been visiting Metropolitan’s drop-in counseling center to speak with a professional about their mental health.

Social Worker Alberto Perez of NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan

The New York City Department of Health reports that 44 percent of adult New Yorkers are experiencing anxiety because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 35 percent of adults say that the virus is having a negative impact on the well-being of a child in their home.

People are struggling with depression and anxiety about widespread illness, separating from their families and friends, job loss and prolonged isolation, Perez said. It’s tiring, and he has seen the effect on his own family. They began to argue more, and conflicts in the home increased.

“We all finally said, ‘let’s take a step back,’” he said. “This isn’t just our problem, it’s one for our entire society. We’re victims of circumstances, but we can turn this around.”

He and his family now make time to eat dinner together, plan a family night and also go hiking and walking outdoors even when it’s cold. He and his wife also watch a comedy or something uplifting before bed so that they go to sleep and wake up in an upbeat mood.

Everybody is different, Perez said, so what works for one person may not for another. But look for things that help you relax, and try to include more of that in your life.

Here are 7 tips to help you reduce stress during the pandemic:

  • Move your body. Take a nice morning walk around the block, Perez said. If you don’t like to exercise much, getting out of the home is just as good. Walk, ride your bike, dance to music or do anything that gets you up and moving. Physical activity is good for preventing and decreasing anxiety and depression.
  • Eat healthy. Eating healthy by adding fruits, vegetables and legumes to your normal diet will boost how you feel inside and out, Perez said. Eating well supercharges your mind and body.
  • Surround yourself with good company, including friends and family. Spend quality time with people who care about you. Reach out to people whom you haven’t seen in a while. If you have a friend or someone who is alone or down, reach out to that person and listen. We are already staying six-feet-apart from one another, Perez said, so try to stay connected with people you care about.
  • Spend time helping others in need. Help feed the homeless at a food pantry, or volunteer at a church, synagogue or another place of worship. Share the pain with that person, Perez said, and you may find that it’s uplifting.
  • Find quiet time for meditation or prayer. Practice self-awareness. Read books and listen to things that bring calm and make you feel better.
  • Say positive things to yourself. This is called positive self-talk, Perez said. If you’re waking up and feeling down, think of the great things about yourself. Some people can get trapped in a cycle of thinking negative thoughts, so try to get out of that spiral with positive talk. Remind yourself what you’ve achieved recently and of things you do well.
  • Speak with a professional counselor. You’re not alone in what you’re experiencing. Speaking to a professional social worker, psychologist or another provider for mental health is no different than seeing a doctor or nurse practitioner when you’re ill. Don’t feel uncomfortable reaching out. It can be the positive thing you need to feel better.

    To speak with a mental health provider, call 1-844-692-4692 and we’ll connect you with a professional who is right for you.