Mental hygiene amid COVID-19: Mental health professionals discuss remedies that can go a long way

Telehealth technology has allowed mental health professionals like Oyen Hoffman the ability to assist clients remotely. Matthew Bennett / Post Independent

While handwashing, coughing into elbows and adhering to social distancing can go a long way in slowing the spread of COVID-19, being mindful of one’s mental health is incredibly important as well. 

Fortunately, telehealth technology has afforded mental health professionals the ability to assist clients remotely.

However, the unprecedented situation caused by the pandemic can understandably overwhelm any individual whether they have underlying mental health conditions or not. Therefore, in addition to following the physical hygiene practices set forth by the CDC, mental health professionals have also recommended a few, meaningful coping skills of their own.     

“Anxiety is living in the future and we are living very much in the future with this COVID-19 outbreak,” Oyen Hoffman, Mountain Family Health Centers behavioral health provider, said. “Oftentimes, we build a horror story in our head.” 

With children out of school and plenty of parents unable to go to work, Hoffman discussed the importance of limiting the amount of time families spend watching the news together at home.

Staying informed certainly doesn’t hurt, but too much exposure to breaking news headlines can do more bad than good, Hoffman explained. 

“As soon as you notice it’s making you feel bad, stop watching or tuning in,” Hoffman said. “As soon as you start feeling nervous, anxious, depressed or upset turn it off and engage in some other useful activity.”

Mind Springs Health outpatient program director Hans Lutgring emphasized the power of the arts, particularly during a pandemic.

From reading and writing, to listening to a record or preparing a home-cooked meal, Lutgring recommended simply turning the TV or smartphone off for a while.

“I think it is a matter of reframing things,” Lutgring said. “This could genuinely be an opportunity to reclaim some sense of control and the time that we have together as a family as a result of this.”

Keeping social distancing in mind, Hoffman and Lutgring spoke about the importance of maintaining healthy eating habits, exercising and getting outside whenever possible.

“We’re all in this together,” Lutgring said. “Kindness and compassion for ourselves and kindness and compassion for others is the best advice we can give right now as a community mental health center.”

In his 19 years working in the mental health field, Hoffman said he had never seen anything quite like COVID-19 and believed now, more than ever, people must take care of one another to the greatest extent possible. 

“Be patient, be thoughtful and by all means don’t make an emotional decision, make a thoughtful, logical decision,” Hoffman said. 

Particularly for parents with younger children, Hoffman said to continue being a source of calm and comfort. 

“They’re going to remember this forever,” Hoffman said. “Have them remember the fun things that they did at home with their family as opposed to it was a really scary and stressful time.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.