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The Emotional Toll of COVID-19

It’s no surprise that anxiety, stress and depression are on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we are combating the physical effects of the virus, we are also facing profound loss, economic uncertainty, social isolation and worry for the health of our loved ones. Together, we have been forced to embark on an uncharted journey, yet, it is easy for many to feel like they are struggling completely alone. 

Rising stress levels and increased fear demonstrate the existence of a ‘second curve’ of this pandemic, a less visible but growing mental health crisis. Maintaining sound mental health now is more important, and more challenging, than ever. Due to this growing issue, it is critical for healthcare systems to work fast to ensure those experiencing the emotional weight of the pandemic are connected to the appropriate mental wellbeing resources. While there is considerable focus on the physical effects of COVID-19 on our bodies, we are only truly healthy when prioritizing our mental, emotional and spiritual selves, too.

Since the pandemic began, more than 40 million Americans have filed unemployment benefit claims. In Minnesota alone, roughly 395,000 jobs have been lost. With a lack of a steady income, coupled with the fear of a rapidly spreading virus and the necessary stay-at-home guidelines, many Americans are facing stressors they never had before. According to a new national survey from CVS Health and Morning Consult, two-thirds of adults surveyed indicated they are experiencing increased stress compared to this time last year and more than 60 percent fear the impact COVID-19 will have on their health.1 General anxiety is up across the United States with 62 percent of Americans feeling anxious about the possibility of a loved one getting coronavirus.

Well-Being and Emotional Support Resources

It is normal to feel a range of emotions during any sort of crisis, and COVID-19 is no exception. While stress, fear and anger manifest differently in each individual, there are things you can do that may help you cope with stress during the pandemic. These include:

  • Talking about it. While we may be separated in distance, that doesn’t mean we have to be separated in heart. Find opportunities, to call, text and write people you love and trust and talk about how you are handling the situation at hand. 
  • Practicing healthy habits. While it is easy to feel sedentary when staying at home, maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and finding opportunities to exercise remains important. 
  • Learning all you can. Sometimes, gathering the facts can help you accurately assess your risk and calm your fears. While there is a lot of information out there, stick to sources you trust, like the CDC, WHO, your state’s public health agency and your healthcare providers. 
  • Consuming less news. While being informed is important, limit the anxiety that can be brought on by consuming too much negative media coverage. Be conscious of when and how much news you and your family are watching and listening to.  

To help flatten the second curve of COVID-19 related mental wellbeing issues, Allina Health | Aetna is providing resources to its members to help meet each individual’s changing needs and circumstances. These resources include: 

  • 24/7 crisis support: Free, confidential counseling by phone at 1-966-370-4842 (TTY: 711) through Aetna’s Resources for Living program.
  • Telemedicine: Real-time virtual provider care via voice and video calling platforms.
  • Basic Needs Support: Access to resources from help with meal delivery, long-distance caregiving, prescription delivery and more.
  • Stress management: Podcasts, webinars and other educational and support tools. 

A Positive Frame of Mind

Mental health and well-being are being talked about across mainstream media, amongst coworkers and friends more than ever. People are appreciating its importance and we must harness that momentum and bring hope into the future. 

“One thing we may have learned from this pandemic is maybe we are all just a little too busy,” says Dr. Mary Lardizabal, D.O. at Allina Health | Aetna. “When given no choice but to slow down, some people have started to realize that their quality of life can be different. There are little joys that are being uncovered, whether that’s family dinners every night or the ability to work next to an open window in your pajamas can be seen as a gift. These are the things we will have to take with us after the pandemic.”  

Finding those slivers of joy when you can is important, but so is seeking professional help if needed. 

For more information on how to take care of your mental health and the mental health of others during the pandemic, listen to our podcast interview with Cara McNulty President of Aetna Mental Wellbeing and Dr. Lardizabal as part of our ‘Because Care Doesn’t Stop’ campaign

1Most adults are experiencing more stress than same time last year, new report shows. (2020, June 16). Retrieved September 28, 2020, from

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Health benefits and health plans are offered, underwritten or administered by Allina Health and Aetna Insurance Company (Allina Health | Aetna).  Allina Health l Aetna is an affiliate of Aetna Life Insurance Company and its affiliates (Aetna).  Allina Health | Aetna has sole responsibility for its products and services. Aetna provides certain management services to Allina Health | Aetna. Aetna and MinuteClinic, LLC (which either operates or provides certain management support services to MinuteClinic-branded walk-in clinics) are both within the CVS Health family.

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