Coping With COVID-19: 6 Tips to Protect Your Mental Health When You’re Sick

Be mindful of signs of depression when you’re isolating
Man in self-imposed quarantine communicating with wife through window

It’s normal to feel anxiety, worry and grief any time you’re diagnosed with a medical condition – and that’s certainly true if you test positive for COVID-19, or are presumed to be positive.

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If your symptoms aren’t severe and you can recover at home, this will involve home isolation until it’s safe for you to be near others without potentially spreading the infection.

Isolation protects others from getting sick – but for the person who is sick, it might seem like one more thing on top of an already stressful situation.

“Stress negatively affects your body, so while you rest up and work on recovering physically, it’s important to keep your mental health in check, too,” says psychiatrist Amit Anand, MD.

Here are some ways to keep anxiety and sadness from creeping in while you recover from COVID-19:

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Focus on what you can know and control

You may not know how you got infected, or how long it will take to recover. Instead of focusing your energy on regret or what ifs, double down on what you can do. Your job now is to take care of yourself, get well and avoid spreading the infection to anyone else.

Engage your support network

Ask loved ones to check in on you regularly via phone, email or video chat. Talk to them about how you’re feeling. If you’re worried about taking care of children, pets or household duties while you’re sick, identify family members, friends or members of your community who aren’t part of a high-risk population and may be able to help.

Eat well, stay hydrated + meditate

Feed your body nutritious food (over comfort food) when your appetite allows, and stay hydrated. If you’re able, take deep breaths, meditate or stretch to help relax your body.

Do activities you enjoy and find relaxing

Puzzles, books and crossword puzzles can help keep your mind occupied and your thoughts from ruminating. Keeping a journal of what you’re experiencing may also help you sort out your thoughts and stay positive, Dr. Anand says.

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Make sure you’re sleeping enough

Your body needs rest in order to recover, so now isn’t the time to stay up till 3 a.m. binge watching a new show.

Step back from the news and social media

All the chatter online can make you feel even more upset and overwhelmed. “If you’ve reached that point, take a break, or set a time limit for yourself around TV-watching and social media usage,” Dr. Anand says.

Being socially isolated can increase your risk of depression and anxiety. While you recover, watch out for these common red flags:

  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt.
  • Changes in your appetite that aren’t related to your illness or symptoms.
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep.
  • Trouble concentrating on things.
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself.

Dr. Anand notes that many behavioral health professionals are now seeing patients virtually, so if you can’t seem to control your negative thoughts, or experience any of these signs for more than two weeks, ask your healthcare provider to refer you to someone.

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