Preserving Mental Health During The Pandemic

May 10, 2020

The Delano Clinic in Portage, Michigan
Credit Andy Robins / WMUK

The COVID-19 crisis is having an impact on mental as well as physical health.


Dr. Nishani Samaraweera is a clinical psychologist at the Ascension Borgess Delano Clinic in Portage. She says the pandemic causes understandable fear and anxiety in many people.

"There are definitely more people, even among my client population, reporting more concerns, more fears, more anxieties about their personal health as well as more difficulty and anxiety associated with going about their everyday life and business. And, to some extent that's perfectly normal, too."

Samaraweera says it's normal because of the ever-changing nature of the pandemic and responses to it.

"Given that information and guidelines of what to do, or recommendations about what to do, also change within a short time of the previous recommendations and guidelines, that also lends itself to a sense of unpredictability and uncertainty. And where there is uncertainty and unpredictability some amount of anxiety is normal."

Samaraweera says one way to deal with anxiety is to focus on the things you can control rather than on those you can't.

"Find ways to reframe the current circumstances and even the limitations or restrictions you experience in terms of what you can do that allows you to fulfill what your daily requirements are, as well as what you can do to keep yourself safe and others safe."

Front-line healthcare workers like doctors and nurses, and some other people, can also undergo severe trauma because of the pandemic. Samaraweera says that isn't surprising.

"When we witness someone struggling to breathe, being in pain because they cannot breathe, that's hard! So, if you're having a nightmare about it, if you're having that image in your mind and it keeps recurring even when you don't want it to, and it disturbs you even at times when you're trying to rest, that's understandable."

Samaraweera says it's important for people to reach out and talk rather than trying to suppress what they're feeling.

"Very often, talking about it with someone really helps and lets you put words to what you are experiencing. It allows you to acknowledge those reactions of helplessness, powerlessness, grief, anger even, all of which are normal and understandable in those circumstances."