Mental Health and COVID-19: a Conversation with Psychotherapist Jodi Aman
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In this time of isolation and uncertainty, while we’re protecting ourselves and each other from COVID-19, it’s important that we care for our mental health, as well.

“The stress, the anxiety, the emotions that are provoked by this crisis are truly significant,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a recent press conference, “and people are struggling with the emotions as much as they are struggling with the economics.” The Governor has made a point of emphasizing the stress and anxiety people may feel over COVID-19 at his daily press conferences as much as the virus itself.

People may develop anxiety because of the coronavirus outbreak, which can lead to feelings of nervousness or preoccupation with worrying thoughts, difficulty sleeping and even physical symptoms like hyperventilation.

Psychotherapist Jodi Aman says that to be affected doesn’t require having anxiety disorder because “regular people are feeling it right now. It’s about a regular human response to this kind of uncertainty that’s out there.” She says that she has observed many people react by freaking out initially, but after a couple days being stuck at home, they’ve been reassured that they can, in fact, handle it.

She encourages everyone to stay as active as they can. This will counteract the adrenaline that anxiety feeds off of. When people are active, their bodies produce the gaba hormone that Aman says “puts the breaks on adrenaline.” Exercising, beginning a project or learning something new can keep your mind stimulated, increase your energy and, she said, “keep yourself feeling strong and ready for anything.” Reclaim your routine: go to bed at the same time and get the same amount of sleep every night, have a schedule for work and chores and, most importantly, for fun, games, laughter and positive thoughts. “It’s not something we have to forego right now,” she said.

Aman says keeping connected with our elderly loved ones is important, even if it means talking to them from outside their houses through a window. “Let them know that we’re thinking about them and we love them,” she added. “Everybody needs that actually.” Children can be vulnerable, as well. Much of this, Aman says, can “be too heavy on their little psyches right now.” If they see their parents handling it well, being reassuring and confident, they’ll model that behavior. This is confidence that if they begin building it now, “they’re going to have that their whole lives to help them get through hard times.” Teenagers, too, need special attention. At a time when they are seeking a sense of independence, being stuck at home can be risky for them. Finding activities for them, and everyone, can get their minds going, improve their emotional wellness and help them get through this tough time.

She wants everyone to be reassured that “there is help out there” and even though you are stressed and anxious, that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, you’re just experiencing the current situation like everyone else. She and other therapists are making their services available on-line or over the phone. “Everyone’s really trying to make it easier for people to get through this,” she said, “even better than they were before.

At Governor Andrew Cuomo’s request, over six-thousand mental health professionals have volunteered to make their counseling and therapy services available to New Yorkers free of charge. If you need to talk to someone, simply call this number: 1-844-863-9314.