State DHHS offers mental health copiing tips during pandemic

Staff Writer
Syracuse Journal-Democrat

COVID-19 can significantly affect mental health for everyone. Both the worry and anxiety of contracting the virus as well as the increase in loneliness and isolation can worsen and trigger symptoms.

During May, Mental Health Awareness Month, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services urges everyone to pay attention to feelings they may be experiencing. People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment plans.

“Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, and how you respond to the situation can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in," said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS. “The impact of isolation can take a toll on your mental health. When you feel challenged, continue to focus on what you can control. Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger. Don't let perceived stigma prevent you from asking for help."

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear, irritability, sadness and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Lack of energy and motivation to carry out your day-to-day activities
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

Try these strategies:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Have fun and be creative with activities. 
  • Take care of your body.
    • Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
    • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
    • Exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
    • Avoid overeating, alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Keep a regular schedule to lessen worry and anxiety.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Stay connected through video calls with loved ones and friends.
  • Participate in virtual faith-based communities or other groups that may be supportive to your well-being.

Overwhelmed and need to talk?  You are not alone. Help is available.  Nebraska has behavioral health providers that are ready to serve you. To find one near you, visit the Network of Care page at

There are a number of hotlines also that stand ready to help.

  • The Nebraska Family Helpline - 1-888-866-8660
  • SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Hotline -1-800-985-5990
  • The Nebraska Rural Response Hotline - 1-800-464-0258
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255.