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A mindful approach to mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues unabated, people are increasingly struggling with anxiety, depression and substance abuse. At the same time, mental health services have been disrupted in nearly every country. Perhaps never has it been more important to be aware of your mental health and to take steps to improve it. Here’s how. 1,2,3,4

Acknowledge your feelings. Rather than pretend that everything is normal — it’s not — honestly assess your reaction to the pandemic. Are your muscles tense? Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you feel overwhelmed or helpless? Are you turning to alcohol and drugs? Do you constantly check your newsfeeds and your symptoms? Keeping a journal can help you gain perspective.5,6,7

Watch your use of alcohol. Drinking can dull your senses, but it doesn’t make problems go away. You may have a problem if you need more and more alcohol to get the same feeling, if you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop or if friends or family members are raising concerns.8

Learn about depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety are medical conditions that affect hundreds of millions of people and don’t just go away on their own. Common symptoms include agitation, irregular sleep, irritability and difficulty concentrating. Seek help if your sadness lasts for more than two weeks or your anxious feelings last for more than six months.9,10,11,12

Practice mindfulness. Yoga, meditation and other mindfulness activities can help you reframe your thoughts. Even a single, one-hour mindfulness session focussed on breathing and awareness of your thoughts can yield positive results. Try adding this routine to your daily schedule: Breathe 3 times a day at a rate of 6 cycles per minute (5 seconds in, five seconds out) for 5 minutes.13

Seek help if you need it. If your symptoms aren’t going away, reach out for help. Aetna members have access to vHealth services* and the Wysa well-being app, which offers 150+ evidence-based exercises to self-manage stress, fatigue and burnout. You can find details at the Health Hub. And if you are thinking about harming yourself, call your local emergency response number immediately.

*For those eligible

How Aetna Well-being can help*

Getting help with mental-health concerns doesn’t have to require a trip to a counsellor’s office or a long wait for an appointment. Here’s how Sanjeev, a 39-year-old Aetna International member living in Singapore, got the support he needed online.**

Sanjeev has been suffering from persistent stress, emotional fatigue and burnout since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Sanjeev talks with his line manager, who recommends both professional therapy and self-directed learning available via the Aetna Well-being benefit.

Sanjeev logs in to the Health Hub, his secure member portal, searches for ‘Aetna Well-being: Mind’ and learns about the AWARE program.

Sanjeev registers for AWARE, a six-week, one-on-one course of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

AWARE helps Sanjeev develop emotional and mental resiliency and improve his concentration and focus by using mindfulness practises and yoga.

While browsing the Health Hub, Sanjeev also learns about the Wysa well-being app.

Sanjeev downloads and installs the app for free, a confidential, anonymous well-being chatbot.

Sanjeev uses some of Wysa’s 150+ evidence-based exercises to self-manage stress, fatigue and burnout.

Although Wysa offers a conversation with a human coach, Sanjeev feels good enough that he skips that option for now, but acknowledges it for a potential future need.

Do you need help?

As an Aetna International member, you can call us using the number on the back of your member ID card. Log in to the Health Hub, your secure member website, to find out more about vHealth*, to contact the Aetna CARE team to ask health care questions or to search our directory of in-network hospitals or clinics. Download the vHealth by Aetna app***. In Dubai? Download the vHealth (Dubai) app, contact the free toll  number on 8000 35704672 or email***. In Thailand? Download the vHealth (Thailand) app***. To download Wysa for free or take advantage of member discounts, including apps like Pzizz, log in to the Health Hub and search ‘Aetna Well-being for the Mind’. For more information about your health care benefits, contact your plan sponsor.

You’re not alone. Getting help today makes for a better tomorrow.

*For those eligible | **Specific processes vary by country | ***All vHealth apps can also be downloaded from the App Store.

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