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Mar 16

COVID-19 and Maintaining Your Health

Posted on March 16, 2020 at 11:39 AM by Melinda Mayo

There was really no obvious alternative for a topic for this week’s post. COVID-19 has consumed most of the news cycle for the past couple of weeks and therefore much of our time and attention. Community events, parades, and even school have all been cancelled in an effort to lessen exposure and, in turn, hopefully reduce spikes in cases and thus stress on our health care system. All of this, not to mention the odd run on toilet paper supplies, has no doubt added stress and anxiety for many, and it is that aspect I want to focus on with this post.

Clearly, the past week’s events have captured our attention and for most, moved us to actions to help keep us, our families, and our community as safe as practical.  For many, though, this heightened sense of awareness and urgency can manifest itself into stress and anxiety and a host of mental health concerns.  Thankfully, just as there steps that one can take to protect their physical bodies from the virus and actions that can be taken should symptoms appear, so also, there are steps one can take to protect their mental health.

Facts Not Fear

With the constant barrage of information from any number of sources, it is easy to get overwhelmed and anxious.  While it is important to equip yourself with facts, it is also necessary to manage your intake of information.  The most reliable and factual information about the virus can be found at the Center for Disease Control via their website.  The most reliable information about the local situation and response can be found at the City’s website and via our social media accounts.  Other sources such as the Roanoke City Public Schools website, the Virginia Department of Health website, and local media are helpful as well.  It is essential that you take time to step away from all of the information that is sent your way.  Reliable and factual information from a few key sources is enough to prepare you and your family. Too much information, conflicting guidance, rumors and hearsay simply add to the stress and anxiety.

Take Care of Everyone

Your mental health is critical.  As you take steps to adequately protect your mental health, you can likewise ensure the health of those around you.  Children are always vulnerable in such situations and, in this case, likely so are the elderly who may face weeks or months of social isolation.  Take some time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.  Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.  Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.  Try to keep up with regular routines. With schools closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.  Check in with friends and families via phone or email, especially those that may be isolated for one reason or another.

Don’t Go it Alone

These are worrisome times, and even though we are encouraged to physically separate ourselves let’s not emotionally isolate ourselves.  It’s time to use all that technology that surrounds us constantly, to connect us.  It’s time to actually talk with one another and share our concerns and care.  Loved ones are still only a phone call away, worship services can still be joined virtually, counselors can still be reached and hotlines are still active.  As Italians undergoing weeks-long quarantines have recently shown us, there are balconies from which neighbors can join in song.  The important thing is to remain a part of a community.  Help yourself and help others grapple with what is taking place and make sense of it, and promote hope and togetherness.


There are number of reliable and helpful resources available that offer much better information and support than I can through a blog post.  Some of these are noted below.  Take care of yourselves, physically and mentally, and your neighbors and friends, and remember those doctors, nurses, firefighters, janitors, sanitation workers, clerks, and many others that remain on the job to ensure our community is as safe and resilient as it can be.

— Bob Cowell

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)

Blue Ridge Behavioral Health Care 24-Hour Crisis Services: 540-981-9351


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