NAMI Maine offers COVID-19 mental health tips

HALLOWELL — COVID-19, or the coronavirus, has had a global reach and is impacting both the physical and mental health of Mainers.
The Maine state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness knows that fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children, as well as exacerbate existing stressors and mental health concerns.
It is important Mainers care for their emotional health during this time of turmoil.
Below are suggestions for maintaining overall mental wellness, as well as recommendations for students and those working from home.

General Mental Health Tips
* Take a break from social media and the news. It’s important to stay informed, but if the constant updates and stories are causing stress, it’s okay to turn off the phone or television to relax.
* Get enough sleep. This is an important step towards preventing any illness.
* Eat healthy! A well-balanced diet is a vital aspect of physical and mental health.
* Practice mindfulness. Spend some time breathing or meditating. Mindfulness techniques can help us recognize negative thought patterns, such as catastrophizing, which might be exacerbated due to COVID-19
* Move and get some exercise. Even getting outside and taking a quick walk can benefit one’s mental health.
* Check in with your loved ones, near and far. If concerned about spreading COVID-19 or being exposed to it, consider calling, texting, or video chatting rather than meeting up in person.
* Check in with a mental health professional. If you are seeing a counselor or therapist, consider bringing up how you are feeling about COVID-19 during your regular session.
Give the NAMI Maine HelpLine a call at 800-464-5767, ext. 1, or the Maine Warm Line a call at 1-866-771-WARM (9276). If you or a loved one are in crisis, call the State Crisis Line at 1-888-568-1112. Click here for more information regarding mental health and COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mental Health & Working Remotely
Many workplaces and schools are encouraging/mandating that employees work from home as a preventative measure. While this can be a great way to boost productivity and focus for some, it can also feel isolating and employees can miss out on important social interactions that take place in an office or work environment. Here are a few tips on staying mentally well while working from home:
* Stick to a set work schedule, just as you would normally.
* Maintain routines such as getting dressed as you would for a typical work day, taking regularly scheduled breaks, etc.
* Create a dedicated work space in your home that is separate from other activities.
* Move! Get outside and take a quick walk on your breaks.
* Find ways to communicate and stay connected to your team, whether through Teams, Slack, Google Chat/Hangouts, etc. Much of our communication relies on body language, not just text, so having some facetime with your colleagues can be important.
* Set boundaries — be sure to clock in and clock out as you would when going to and from the office.

Mental Health for Young People and Students
COVID-19 has thrown a curveball into the spring semesters for many students. Check out Active Minds’ recommendations on how to help manage the stress of the coronavirus with kids whose learning might be changing venues or being disrupted.
Don’t know how to talk to a child about COVID-19? Check out this resource from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration which includes some great tips for talking with children about infectious disease.

Preventative Steps
Many practices that you would take into account to avoid the flu or a regular cold apply to preventing COVID-19.
* Wash your hands, especially when you come home from work, interacting with other folks or running errands. Use plenty of soap and water and be sure to scrub for at least 20 seconds. It can be helpful to hum songs like “Happy Birthday” to help make sure you’re washing for the correct amount of time.
* Avoid touching your face and sharing products like makeup.
* Cough into your elbow and use tissues when you have to sneeze.
* Avoid contact with folks who are sick. If you aren’t feeling well, stay home. If you think you might have the coronavirus, call your healthcare provider. They can help field your questions and find a testing facility, if necessary.
* Suspend all travel that is non-essential.
* Stay away from vulnerable people such as the elderly and immunocompromised folks. It’s natural and healthy to want to provide support and love to family and friends, but consider making a phone call or sending a card to a loved one instead.
* Consider social distancing and avoiding crowded public places to minimize the spread of the disease.

For information on the coronavirus and updates on Maine’s response to the disease, visit the Maine Center for Disease Control’s website. If you have other questions regarding COVID-19, reach out to Maine 211 at 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or emailing