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Tips To Balance Your Mental Health With The Stress Of COVID-19

Mar 18, 2020

Jackie Skramstad, who's Mind Springs Health's clinical operations manager, says the best things to do during this time of COVID-19 is to connect with people through technology, and go outside for fresh air and Vitamin D.
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Recent orders from Gov. Jared Polis have shut down bars and restaurants and ski mountains in Colorado, schools are closing and health officials are encouraging people to stay home as much as possible. Many Roaring Fork Valley residents may be feeling anxiety and stress during this time of COVID-19.

Jackie Skramstad, who is the clinical operations manager at Mind Springs Health, spoke with Aspen Public Radio’s Molly Dove about what you can do to take care of yourself during this time. 

MD: How can COVID-19 and the stress of the outbreak affect people’s mental health?

JS: So at our core, we really want to have certainty in our lives, and when things feel uncertain and beyond our control, it can really leave us with a sense of not feeling safe. Certainly the coronavirus has people feeling uncertain and somewhat out of control. This can also remind us of other times in our lives when we did not feel safe. So these things compound and our mental health and wellness can be impacted. As a result, we may feel more on edge, angry, helpless or sad. 

It's really important that we all remember we're doing the best that we can during these difficult times, so treat others with kindness and compassion knowing that they're doing the best that they can. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, knowing you are doing the best that you can and really practice good self care. Take care of yourself. Be gentle with yourself during these difficult times. 

MD: Since many people are told to stay at home as often as they can and may not be able to see their loved ones, what does that self-care look like in a time like this?

JS: I have three different tips. The first one is really being able to separate what's in our control and what's not within our control, and obviously the coronavirus is not fully in our control, but our response to it is. So we want to do the things that all of the public health and medical community has informed us of doing, like washing our hands, having healthy habits around eating, sleep and exercise and following social distancing recommendations. Now within following the social distancing recommendations, how do we keep ourselves sane and maintain our connections? 

Although it's important to be connected to the news and know what's happening in your community, I really recommend limiting news and social media exposure. Get informed, know what's happening and then turn it off, put it away, don't look at it anymore. Find new and creative ways to stay connected with friends, family and loved ones. There are virtual ways to stay connected. You can do Facetime, you can do Zoom or Skype.

My last tip really in dealing with the stress that we're all feeling right now is stay present in the moment. Try not to project into the future. We can't spend time worrying about things that haven't happened or may never happen. This just adds additional stress and worry that you don't need. If you need to get grounded in the present moment, take some deep breaths, some deep abdominal breaths, and focus on the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes of the present moment. 

MD: What about going outside?

JS: Stay connected to nature. Fresh air and sunshine is so important for our health and well-being, and you can do this and still social distance and not be around other people. You can take a walk around the neighborhood, a hike, a bike ride. If you're not in shape and don't want to be moving around too much, just go outside, sit in a chair, get some sunshine and some fresh air. It really helps with our health and wellness and gives us needed vitamin D.