Mental Wellness for People Diagnosed with COVID

| August 25, 2020

Testing positive for COVID is a stressful experience, as is the recommended self-isolation period following said diagnosis. Even if your case is a mild one, there will be an impact on both your physical and mental health. Here are some tips and strategies for navigating these circumstances.

    1. Maintain virtual social contact during your self-isolation period and talk about your health challenges. From a psychological standpoint, a burden carried privately is always heavier than a burden that’s shared with others. Keeping your diagnosis a secret is not helpful. You’re going to feel better physically and emotionally if you talk about what’s bothering you about this experience, with friends, family, professionals, and really anyone who can provide support.
    2. Do not attempt to maintain the same performance and productivity levels as you would if you were not sick. Only engage in tasks that are in line with how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Care for yourself and allow others to take care of you. Eat and sleep well. This one will be hard for a lot of Hopkins students, who often have high expectations for themselves. You need to allow yourself to do less so you can physically heal. Consider reducing external expectations, which might include a smaller academic course load. Don’t blindly persist in your pursuit of excellence in spite of your current physical limitations. It’s dangerous.
    3. Maintain contact with your health providers and academic advisors. Your health providers will help you through the (relatively) short-term process of COVID treatment and recovery. Your academic advisors (professors, student affairs staff, etc.) can help you navigate your academic progress in both the short and long term.
    4. Be patient. Your life can’t resume until you are symptom free and cleared by a health professional. Additionally, you might not be back to your normal pace immediately after the isolation period is over. Be kind and compassionate to yourself, and do not become overly focused on any particular benchmark.
    5. Focus on things you can control. You control your academic routines, your sleep, your nutrition, and your perspective on your experiences. You may not have control over other aspects of COVID, so spend less time thinking about those things. Limit your news consumption if necessary. Even if you are high risk or have a severe case, excessive worry will only have a negative impact on your mood with no tangible benefits. Think about what you can control: studying as much as your energy levels allow, self-care, and rest.
    6. Maintain your perspective and avoid catastrophizing the impact of COVID on your life. Your health will very likely improve. Illness is temporary, and most Hopkins students do not fall into high-risk categories. Your positive COVID test affects your life currently, but it’s also a blip on the radar screen of your entire life span. It’s important now, but it is likely to be a small episode in your life. Even without the complicating factors of a global pandemic, lots of students don’t give themselves permission to do things like consider a medical leave of absence or take an extra semester to graduate. There may be financial and logistical considerations when it comes to those choices, of course. But an extra semester doesn’t put you behind your peers in a significant way. You will recover — physically, mentally, professionally — from this experience.