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Coronavirus outbreak may impact mental health, experts say

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state, a health expert says you're not alone.

SEATTLE — If you’re feeling down or stressed out during the coronavirus outbreak, you’re not alone.

”These reactions and the feelings that we’re all feeling with such intensity are really the normal response to these abnormal circumstances,” said Colleen Hilton, founder and CEO of Acuity Counseling.

Hilton says some of the clients at Acuity Counseling are feeling overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re in an unprecedented situation and there’s no rule book and no instructions on how to handle this, so of course, we’re feeling unsettled and unstable and that presents as fear and anxiety,” Hilton said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the World Health Organization, encourage people to avoid crowded areas. Although necessary, Hilton says make sure you’re paying attention to how you’re feeling.

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”Social isolation is really the known gateway drug to depression so depending on how long this goes on we might see some really long-term significant impacts,” Hilton said.

Hilton says the good news is, there are plenty of ways to cope.

”We are really encouraging our clients to really be active, to continue doing things that they love and be intentional about how they interact with other people, but not to completely isolate,” Hilton said.

Outside of using social media to stay connected, keep in mind that endless scrolling through information may not be the best idea, Hilton said.

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”It’s a double-edged sword. We have so much information at our fingertips and how could we possibly process all of that information all at the same time, so we really encourage people to practice again boundaries and limitations, be intentional about where you get your news,” Hilton said.

Take everything in stride, you may feel isolated, but your emotions are not.

“We’re struggling with what to do with all of this and I love that we’re talking about that because we don’t really know what to do,” Hilton said.

Hilton stresses if you ever feel like you need to seek help, reach out to a licensed professional or seek other mental health resources.

The CDC has posted information about how to cope during the coronavirus pandemic on its website. 

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