Part 1: How to Care for Yourself as a Caregiver

We understand that there’s a lot to be stressed and anxious about lately. We want to equip you with tips and resources to help you best navigate these uncertain times.

Adopting strategies to protect your mental health, or to prevent it from worsening, may help you become more comfortable with uncertainty and what is beyond your control. Such practices may also make those around you stronger, such as your loved ones and community. Here are some tips to strengthen your mental health today.

#1 Take time to reflect on your own feelings.

Social distancing, working from home and parenting is a lot to handle, but there is a bright side — It offers you time to focus on yourself. Use this time to understand how you’re feeling and know that it’s okay to feel fear, sadness, frustration, confusion, loneliness or guilt.

#2 Stick to your old routines as much as possible.

COVID-19 has changed how we live our daily lives, but that doesn’t mean everything has to change. Continue to abide by your normal routine by maintaining pre-quarantine habits. For instance, if working from home is new to you, begin each work day the same way you would without actually heading into the office. When experiencing constant change, having some familiarity in your daily activities can make life feel more manageable.

#3 Get outside.

While taking the appropriate precautionary measures like social distancing and wearing a mask, exercise, take the kids to the park and enjoy the great outdoors.

If you find yourself dwelling on the negatives and can’t find a way out, go for a walk around the neighborhood and visit the closest green space. Research says that exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally and mentally, it also contributes to your physical well-being.

#4 Focus on things you can control.

Do your best to focus on ensuring the safety of yourself and those around you – something you do have control over. That means washing your hands often, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, avoiding touching your face and non-essential travel, wearing a mask when outside your home, and keeping your immune system strong by maintaining a healthy diet, an exercise routine and a solid 6 to 8 hours of sleep.

#5 Embrace the uncertainties and focus on the positive things.

‘What will happen next? Do I need to keep stocking up on toilet paper? How long will we be stuck at home? When will this all end?’ As hard as it may be, try not to obsess over questions like these. Instead, concentrate on the positive and uplifting moments like the Italians singing from their windows, the New Yorkers cheering on frontline workers from their balconies, or the acts of love and kindness taking place in your own community.

#6 Stay connected.

Don’t isolate yourself. Loneliness can be as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Stay in touch with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. Don’t just text – skype, call, email, or schedule a social distanced date. Check in on how they’re doing, let them know how you are doing. Offer all of your love, support and encouragement.

#7 Count your blessings.

Be thankful for your health, body and that of your friends and family. Thank the brave frontline workers – that includes medical professionals, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, restaurant workers, warehouse workers, garbage and sanitation workers – the true heroes of this pandemic, who are serving you and your community.

#8 Turn off the news.

Limit your media intake, that includes your local news channel and social media. Stay informed about what’s happening through reliable sources, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

#9 Seek professional help.

If you find that you need professional help, consider services like BetterHelp and Talkspace, which allow you to communicate with mental health professionals through digital messaging. You can also visit your medical carrier’s website — it may offer a hotline to help deal with the stresses you’re facing. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 is another resource you can utilize.

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Part 2: Accessing Your Mental Health Benefits

If you are struggling with mental health, especially during these most difficult times, there are resources available to help! Outlined below are some tips to help you connect with your mental health benefits and how to find the right provider.

Mental Health Benefits and Your Carrier

Mental health insurance coverage hasn’t always been heavily promoted by insurance carriers. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, major carriers have expanded their mental health offerings to ensure members have access to the support they need.

Take some time to explore programs available through your medical insurance carrier’s website.

Mental Health Benefits and Your Employer

When seeking out mental healthcare, we encourage you to reach out to your employer, Human Resource Department, or employee benefits broker. Ask questions like ‘What’s covered under my medical plan?’ and ‘Are there any additional mental health offerings available in light of the pandemic?’. They are equipped with the information you need and can guide you through the process of utilizing available mental health benefits.

If your medical plan is lacking in mental health coverage, ask if your employee benefits program includes access to an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP. An EAP is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees and their family members who need assistance with personal and/or work-related concerns, such as:

  • Family and parenting issues
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Emotional well-being
  • Marital and relationship problems
  • Work/life balance
  • Substance abuse
  • Financial guidance
  • Legal advice

Searching for a Mental Health Provider

If you find yourself experiencing thoughts, emotions or behaviors that are out of your control — especially when they are affecting your relationships, work, or sense of well-being — you should never feel embarrassed to ask for help. More than 80% of people who sought out a mental health professional and were treated for a mental health condition improved and excelled.

With the goal being to establish a long-term relationship with this person, finding and selecting the right mental health professional for you requires work. If you are struggling with mental health, it can be even more difficult to do the work on your own. Below are some dependable resources to help you locate a knowledgeable provider that you can trust.

  • Option #1 — Request a referral from your physician, friend, or family member.
  • Option #2 — Ask your Human Resources Department, employee benefits broker, or health insurance carrier for a list of in-network providers.
  • Option #3 — If your company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), call in for a referral.

Information provided by Creative Benefits, Inc., an employee benefits brokerage firm located in Newtown Square and Kingston, PA. In light of today’s climate, it is the goal of our organizations to provide timely, beneficial information and resources to assist in maintaining your mental health and overall well-being, all while adjusting to a new normal. Connect and follow their team on LinkedIn and Facebook for more tips surrounding employee benefits and health and wellness.