Mental Health Tips on Coping With Coronavirus Pandemic

Families stuck at home for prolonged periods of time. A constant barrage of unnerving news coverage — both on TV and the Internet. The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic can affect a person’s mental well-being.

Staying healthy includes getting your proper seven to eight hours of sleep every night, without interruption from digital devices, explains Rachel V. F. Rohaidy, M.D., a Baptist Health psychiatrist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental, addictive and emotional disorders.

Dr. Rohaidy, featured in a new Baptist HealthTalk podcast, emphasizes tuning out of the daily COVID-19 news “marathons” and adopting “sleep hygiene” habits.

“Sleep hygiene is really a series of behaviors and so we want bedtimes and our bedrooms to be a sanctuary” — with all TVs, phones and tablets turned off, she tells podcast host, Jonathan Fialkow, M.D., deputy medical director, chief of cardiology and a certified lipid specialist at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. You can access Baptist HealthTalk on your computer or smartphone via Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

Below are Q&A excerpts from Dr. Rohaidy’s podcast with Dr. Fialkow, Coping with the Coronavirus Pandemic:

Dr. Fialkow:
“You have great experience in treating people who have various mental health issues, from depression to anxiety to various other components. But I think it’s fair to say that in this hyper acute time, you’re probably seeing a higher volume. What do you expect to see over the next couple of weeks to months?”

Dr. Rohaidy:
“We’re seeing a lot more anxiety, stress, exasperation, depression. We’re inundated right now with so much information. And a lot of things are coming up for patients with new and old diagnoses — these chronic diagnoses that are now worsening. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. People go on the Internet or they hear rumors — and that’s pretty bad. But lack of information is almost just as powerfully negative — not hearing anything. So I think people should find the proper resources to get their information — whether it’s a legitimate news channel or other means.”

Dr. Fialkow:
“It’s (constant news coverage) actually been shown to have significant mental health effects … everyone should turn it off a good hour or two before you go to bed …”

Dr. Rohaidy:
“My biggest thing as a psychiatrist is sleep and I try to impart sleep hygiene on all my patients. If we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we’re going to have much more stress and anxiety … So turn the TV off; turn the news off; turn the phones off; turn everything off — a couple of hours before you go to sleep and wind down — absolutely.”

Dr. Fialkow:
“What should people start thinking about when they start hearing a piece of information. What can they do to avoid letting this information lead to a full-blown anxiety or panic reaction?”

Dr. Rohaidy:
“Many of us have to work from home. We’ve got our cellphones. We’ve got tablets and computers and we’re just inundated with information. So I want people to kind of stop, take a breath and really say: Do I really need 12 hours of information. Do I need this constant stimulation. Say that you’re only going to do … 15 minutes of listening to the news and only get your news from a reputable source … We need to really calm down those 12-hour marathons of information.”

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