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April 15, 2020

Managing Your Mental Health During a Pandemic

Managing Your Mental Health During a Pandemic

Staying home is obviously the right thing to do as we work together to manage the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that social distancing and following shelter in place orders is easy. For people who are having a hard time at home and looking for some pointers,  Westmed’s mental health experts Sandy Marantz, PhD, LCSW and Melinda Massoff, Ph.D, Psychologist are here to help.


What can I do to help me stay positive?

    • Dr. Marantz:  Create a “gratitude attitude”, by sitting comfortably in a chair, taking deep breaths until you feel relaxed and then writing down ten people and ten things you are grateful for. It’s helpful to do this twice a day if you can, in the morning and before you go to sleep. It is crucial for everyone to focus on what they have in life, and not focus on what they don’t have. If you start your day and end your day with gratitude you will remember the good people and things in your life and not focus on the opposite.
    • Dr. Massoff: It’s hard to keep your mood up during quarantine as the weeks go on and on. We don’t have events or outings to look forward to and all of our celebrations have been put on hold. Some ways to stay happy would be to stay connected with friends.  Reach out to friends and family whether on social media or by telephone, or even video chat! Also, remember, we feel good when we do good. If you’re able to check on elderly or socially isolated neighbors and shop for them that can boost your mood too.

The news is really starting to bother me but I feel like it’s important to stay tuned in to what is happening. How can I manage that?

    • Dr. Marantz: My suggestion would be to only watch the news in the morning so you stay informed. No more than 30 minutes. After that, focus on your work, positive things in your life, your gratitude list, comedies, movies, old classic movies, read books or learn about something new.
    • Dr. Massoff: Of course it’s important to stay informed.  However, if you stay glued to your TV, your anxiety and worry will go on overdrive. Keep in mind that all of the networks are working really hard to keep your eyeballs glued to their programming so they’re presenting the information in a somewhat sensationalized way. I find that checking-in to Governor Cuomo’s daily press conferences or watching your trusted news sources for just 15 to 20 minutes a day is enough.

If you’re living alone, what can you do to keep yourself from feeling lonely?

    • Dr. Marantz: If you are living alone, know that this is the time to call upon your entire support system. Friends, family, even old acquaintances that you haven’t talked to in ages. Apps like Zoom and FaceTime are being widely used to help people stay in touch. Also, distract yourself and do fun things like watching TV, reading, or finishing those house chores you put off. You can also call Compeer 914-761-0600 to find a companion to talk to. Another option would be to schedule a Virtual Visit with the Behavioral Health team at Westmed. We have a number of trained experts who are helping many of our patients manage similar feelings of loneliness and isolation during this time.
    • Dr. Massoff: One patient of mine, who lives alone, is going back through her phone and reaching out to all of her friends that she has not spoken to in a very long time.  This is a really great way for her to stay connected and she’s resuming long lost friendships, and even got an invitation to Florida when this is all over! A great way to reach out is to organize a zoom party or reunion to interact (at least virtually) with old and dear friends.

At times when you’re feeling overwhelmed what can you do to stay grounded and turn your thoughts around?

    • Dr. Marantz: It is crucial to live one moment at a time. Live and eat mindfully. When you wake up and get ready for the day smell the shampoo in your hair, smell the soap, feel the crunch of the toast when you bite down, look at the sky outside, hear the sounds of birds chirping outside. Live mindfully. And eat mindfully. Stay in the moment!
    • Dr. Massoff: Meditation can help and so can grounding exercises such as naming three things that you can hear see and feel. Another example is going through the alphabet and coming up with a food for every letter.


Getting good sleep, eating well and exercising all contribute to your overall mood and energy levels. Try to keep a consistent routine that incorporates all these habits. 

If you’re feeling very overwhelmed please call the Behavioral Health department at Westmed for an appointment.

If you are in immediate crisis and/or feel suicidal please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.