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COVID-19 & Mental Health

Coping with the stress and anxiety of coronavirus

For those living with IBD, stress and anxiety can be a part of everyday life, and at this time, the COVID-19 pandemic has added an additional layer of concern. It is important to validate your emotions during an uncertain time. Every person may respond differently to this situation, but it is important to stay calm, and look for ways to help you and your loved ones cope with these challenges. 

Video Length 01:01:46

Living with IBD and coping with COVID-19 Dr. Tiffany Taft (Northwestern University) and IBD patients Tina Aswani Omprakash and Amber Tresca discuss coping with the stress and anxiety that many are experiencing during this difficult time.

Turning uncertainty into proactive action

Many patients with IBD may be fearful of their level of risk and exposure to the coronavirus. The best action any patient can take is to follow recommendations from their healthcare team, and do their part to help limit the risk. Once you are empowered with information and facts, you will be able to make the best decisions for your health and safety, and the safety of those around you.  Even with a plan, you may still have feelings of anxiety, stress and fear. Here are some ways to help you cope with these feelings:

  • Turn off media and news for some time each day. While it is important to stay updated, having the news on all day can be overwhelming. Ensure you have time away from social media and the news so you can take time for yourself, and for your family. 
  • Develop a plan. If your fears are around the need to prepare your family, take some time to discuss a plan with your loved ones on how to handle the need for quarantine, or supplies, etc. Once you have a plan in place, this may help you feel more at ease.
  • If you are unable to leave home, make sure you have a plan to have groceries, medications and other essential items delivered or dropped off. Ask a neighbor that is able to go outside, or utilize social media and online local message boards. 
  • Being stuck inside for prolonged times can be overwhelming and demotivating. If it helps, set up a schedule to follow for you and your family. Having times set aside for specific activities may help add structure and normalcy back into your day. 
  • Talk to your healthcare team about any questions you have related to your risk. While patients are recommended to continue their medications, there may be other questions or concerns that you want to have addressed.  Give your healthcare provider a call to discuss your concerns.
  • Seek a mental health professional. Contact your healthcare team to learn if there are any mental health providers they recommend. If you have a mental health provider in mind, call in advance and inquire about the ability to do a visit virtually. The Rome Foundation offers a directory of psychologists that have gastrointestinal expertise.
  • Begin a regular stress management practice through the use of relaxation, mindfulness or meditation. The following apps are helpful to create your routine: Smiling Mind, Mindfulness Coach, Buddhify, Headspace, Calm, etc.* 
  • Connect with friends and family. There are many ways to connect with others through technology. Take time to check in with your loved ones, with video conferencing, or phone calls. 
  • If possible, enjoy fresh air while following social distancing recommendations. If you have a backyard, take advantage of some time outdoors. Even if you can’t go outside, try to stay active. There are many online videos you can do at home to keep your body moving. Call your local gym and ask if they recommend or host any online workouts.

Many state and local health departments may also offer supportive counseling or other resources for mental and emotional support. Check with your local health department to learn of any other resources that may be helpful.

*These apps and external resources are shared for informational purposes only, and are not endorsed or produced by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.

Last updated March 31, 2020