Mental Health tips during Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Global disease outbreaks can be stressful, especially when it starts to impact your everyday life.

While different people react differently to this type of stress, common reactions can be:

  • Anxiety
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Change in sleep, eating habits and increased use of alcohol or drugs as a way to cope.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following ways to support yourself (1):

  • While it’s important to educate yourself to reduce the fear of unknown, Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19.
    • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.
  • Connect with others.
    • Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.
    • Try to plan time to communicate with those in your support system.
      • If in person interaction with others is not possible, a phone call or video chat may be an option to consider.
    • Keep social distancing in mind.  CDC recommendations for social distancing (Remaining out of places where people meet or gather, avoiding local public transportation (e.g., bus, subway, taxi, rideshare), and maintaining distance.
  • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking.

The following are adapted from National Library of Medicine (2):

  • Recognize and accept the things you can’t change.  This can help you let go and not get upset. For instance, you might not change rush hour traffic, but you can look for ways to relax during your commute, such as listening to a podcast or book.
  • Avoid stressful triggers when possible. For example, if your family squabbles during the holidays, give yourself a breather and go out for a walk or drive.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise or physical activity most days for about 30 minutes can help your brain release chemicals that make you feel good, and help you release built-up energy or frustration.
  • Change your outlook. Are you being too negative? Work on more positive attitude toward challenges by replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones.
  • Do something you enjoy preferably daily even if it’s just for a few minutes. Examples include reading a good book, listening to music, watching a favorite movie, or having dinner with a friend, a new hobby or class.
  • Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. This can help you think more clearly, and have more energy.
  • Eat enough AND eat healthy foods. This can help fuel your body and mind. Skip the high-sugar snack foods and load up on vegetables, fruits, raw nuts, lean proteins, good fats.
  • Learn to say no. Set limits if you feel over-scheduled, cut back or defer where you can. Ask others for help when you need it.

Consider relaxation techniques:

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/coping.html
  2. https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/responders.asp

Art activities and mental health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

In a national survey of over 31 thousand college students, about 31% of college students report stress impacting their academics, followed by anxiety (25%), and depression (16%). (1).

Excessive stress can also lead to depression and anxiety (2).

A previous post looked at leisure activities and mental health.

Activities involving ART may also help with improving mental health which can then help with academics.

Are there examples of research on art activities and mental health?

  • Sandmire and colleagues showed that art making therapy can help with pre-test anxiety among undergraduate students, done upto 1 week before exams (3).
  • Abbing and colleagues showed that art making therapy can improve symptoms of anxiety among women diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder or panic disorder, with moderate to severe anxiety symptoms.  These were 10-12 sessions lasting 45-60 minutes (4).
  • In a study of 85 undergraduate students, free choice coloring, where they could color an image using any colors they wanted; showed an improvement in anxiety and mood (5).
  • In an experimental replication study, after inducing an anxious mood via a writing activity, participants were randomly assigned to three groups that colored either on a mandala design, on a plaid design, or on a blank paper (6). They found that coloring a mandala reduces anxiety to a significantly greater degree than coloring on a plaid design or coloring on a blank paper (6).

What are some caveats?

  • These are small studies in specific populations which does not tell us about all populations.
  • Further research in this area is needed.

Anything else that can help?

In addition to art, the following activities can also help with physical and emotional health:

  • Healthy lifestyle habits(healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, relaxation skills, healthy sleep habits, etc.) (7)
  • Avoiding harmful habits(smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, etc) (7)
  • This balance might vary from person to person.
  • Healthy ways of thinking and managing emotions through counseling and medications when appropriate.

Different people might benefit from different types of art. What type of art is best for you?

Campus resources:

Any other useful resources on campus:

Learn more about play and mental health:

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/22/mental-health-benefits-of-leisure-activities/

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2016/09/28/study-play-and-leisures-impact-on-mood-stress-and-wellbeing/

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2017. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2018.
  2. Khan S, Khan RA (2017) Chronic Stress Leads to Anxiety and Depression. Ann Psychiatry Ment Health 5(1): 1091.
  3. David Alan Sandmire, Sarah Roberts Gorham, Nancy Elizabeth Rankin & David Robert Grimm (2012) The Influence of Art Making on Anxiety: A Pilot Study, Art Therapy, 29:2, 68-73, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2012.683748
  4. Abbing, A., Baars, E. W., de Sonneville, L., Ponstein, A. S., & Swaab, H. (2019). The Effectiveness of Art Therapy for Anxiety in Adult Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in psychology10, 1203. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01203
  5. Judy Eaton & Christine Tieber (2017) The Effects of Coloring on Anxiety, Mood, and Perseverance, Art Therapy, 34:1, 42-46, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2016.1277113
  6. Renée van der Vennet & Susan Serice (2012) Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? A Replication Study, Art Therapy, 29:2, 87-92, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2012.680047
  7. Trainor, P. Delfabbro, S. Anderson, A. Winefield. Leisure activities and adolescent psychological well-being. Journal of Adolescence, 33 (1) (2010), pp. 173-186.

 

Meditation for attention, stress, and anxiety

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Life transitions can be times of increased stress and anxiety; which can also impact your attention and focus.  One of those transitions includes moving to campus, preparing for the beginning of the fall semester, adjusting to new routines, campus life, etc.

While there are many strategies to help with the transition process, meditation may be the 1 thing to consider because it can be quick, easy, and has low potential for side effects; and has the potential to benefit everyone.  It is practiced by some of the most successful people in the world.

A review of 13 studies showed improvement in ADHD symptoms with mindfulness meditation (1).

41 trials show mindfulness meditation helped improve stress related outcomes such as anxiety, depression, stress, positive mood, etc. (2)

A review of 14 clinical trials shows meditation being more effective than relaxation techniques for anxiety (3).

What are come caveats?

  • While there are many types of mediation techniques, mindfulness-based meditation is the most studied.
  • Different people may benefit from different types of meditation, and this area is being further researched.
  • Practicing regularly may lead to improved benefits.

How to learn meditation?

  • Various apps, books, videos, classes, and guides may be a useful introduction to meditation.

What else might help improve attention, anxiety, and stress related to the beginning of the semester?

What are some helpful resources?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Poissant, H., Mendrek, A., Talbot, N., Khoury, B., & Nolan, J. (2019). Behavioral and Cognitive Impacts of Mindfulness-Based Interventions on Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review. Behavioural neurology2019, 5682050. doi:10.1155/2019/5682050
  2. Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EMS, et al. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2014 Jan. (Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, No. 124.)Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK180102/
  3. Montero-Marin, J., Garcia-Campayo, J., Pérez-Yus, M., Zabaleta-del-Olmo, E., & Cuijpers, P. (n.d.). Meditation techniques v. relaxation therapies when treating anxiety: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Medicine,1-16. doi:10.1017/S0033291719001600