UW Health shares tips for managing psychological impact of COVID-19

MADISON, Wis. — UW Health experts are sharing tips on how to manage the psychological effects that some people who have contracted COVID-19 may be experiencing in the wake of their infection.

According to a recent study from the University of Oxford, COVID-19 patients with no previous psychiatric history saw an increased chance of developing a psychiatric diagnosis after contracting the virus. The most common conditions reported were anxiety disorders, insomnia and dementia.

Distinguished health psychologist at UW Health Shilagh Mirgain said the virus’ disruption of social, work and other routines are often worse for people who have contracted COVID-19.

“When COVID-19 symptoms continue to linger, people can start feeling anxious or depressed because they begin to worry that consequences of the disease will never go away,” said Shilagh Mirgain, distinguished health psychologist at UW Health. “This not only highlights the need for psychological treatment and coping strategies that address the mental health toll of COVID-19 but also underscores the need for a public health response that acknowledges and addresses the pandemic’s mental health consequences.”

Mirgain said those looking to manage the psychological impact of a COVID-19 diagnosis should start by developing a tolerance for uncertainty. Being conscious of what you can and can not control can help with alleviating stress and anxiety.

Taking breaks from energy-consuming activities can also help with managing tough loads, Mirgain said. In addition, taking the time to grieve the losses that have come with the pandemic can help with creating a new normal and moving on.

Mirgain added that defining a clear self-purpose can help give strength during hard times. She recommended asking yourself: “What do I want to be about in the face of this difficulty?”

Finally, Mirgain recommended staying connected with people who can help support you. Being clear and up front about what kind of support you need can go a long way.