How Can Patients Manage Anxiety and Depression During COVID-19?

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VIDEO | 02:18

Learn how to take back control where you can in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meditations referenced in the video can be found here. MSK’s Integrative Medicine service also offers a membership program of online mind-body classes, ranging from fitness to meditation and music therapy. Learn more at MSK.org/AtHome.

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My name is Chris Nelson. I'm the Chief of the Psychiatry Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Many people find the COVID pandemic stressful and anxiety provoking. It can be especially anxiety provoking for cancer patients. Many cancer patients are wondering how they can get to their treatment safely, if their treatments are going to be delayed, or if they're at higher risk for the COVID virus.  Many times, doing things on a daily basis to help us take back control can be helpful.

One of these things is to acknowledge. Acknowledge that this is a stressful and anxiety provoking time. There's going to be ups and downs, and it's difficult for a lot of people. Another thing you can do is provide structure for your day. Try to set an alarm. Try to wake up on a normal schedule. Shower, get dressed, and make sure that you have a plan during the day, that there's things to do during the day.  Oftentimes, taking back control, you can do that with providing a sense of structure.

Connecting with people is very important. Connecting with your friends and family via phone, via video are important pieces in this time. Staying connected to others, whether it's in your community, again, whether it's friends and family can be very helpful.

Engage in enjoyable, interesting, or meaningful activities while you are at home. Be creative in thinking about these types of activities. These can be activities with family. These can be board games at home. Gardening, cooking, those types of hobbies that you've always thought about doing that you're interested in but haven't had time.  It’s important to think about these activities and plan these activities. 

Also, it can be helpful are things like meditation and deep breathing.  At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, we have free meditations available online. They’re five to ten-minute meditations that you can do every day, once or twice a day, that help you relieve stress. They’re available at MSKCC.org. If you're interested in meeting with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists and making an appointment, you can contact us directly or you can talk to your oncologist, and your oncologist can make a referral.