Protecting Your Mental Health Amid COVID-19 News - Harbor School

Protecting Your Mental Health Amid COVID-19 News

As the global pandemic COVID-19 is changing our world and disrupting our lives daily, it is important to stay informed on the latest news. Trusted news sources can help you make informed decisions to protect your health. But could the news be hurting you at the same time? Being glued to 24-hour news networks, social media, and panicking people around you, is almost certainly negatively affecting your stress levels.

Our brains are wired to seek out threats to our survival, so our obsession with scary news stories is biological. Spending hours reading everything you can find about the coronavirus is natural and may give you a feeling of at least some control over the uncertainty upending our lives now. However, absorbing too much bad news can be harmful to your mental and physical health.

According to the American Psychological Association Stress in America survey, most adults say they follow the news regularly, but 56 percent say that doing so causes them stress. Women reported significantly higher stress levels than men. The cortisol released when you feel stress not only affects your mental state, it can also suppress your immune system. Obviously, healthy immune systems are vital during this outbreak, and if you are a caregiver at home all day with a special needs child, I don’t need to tell you how important your mental health is right now.

What should you do?

  • Choose just two or three of the best sources of information and ignore the rest. More information is not better than simple, good information. The CDC website ( is the most up-to-date and authoritative source for news about COVID-19. Also, find the site for your local health department so you can follow the specific recommendations in your community.
  • Pay attention to your emotional responses to the news you consume. If you notice more negative moods or thoughts, then balance the pessimism with some happy thoughts. Write down or just think about a list of things you are grateful for. Hug your healthy loved ones at home or snuggle with a pet. Watch something funny or lighthearted on TV.
  • Pay attention to your physical responses to the news you consume. If you notice your heart racing or your muscles tensing, stop and take a few deep breaths. Maybe even stand up and do some stretches or other physical exercise to calm your body’s fight-or-flight response.
  • Limit your news consumption to once a day and no more than 15 minutes a day, but not just before bed. Do not leave the TV news on “in the background.”
  • Be aware of and be careful about the news your children are exposed to. Depending on their cognitive and developmental abilities, children will process information differently than adults. Without the proper context, they may become distraught or panicked.
You have heard the advice on airplanes to put on your own oxygen mask before helping small children, and it applies to your mental health, too. In order to care for others, caregivers must preserve their own sanity by managing their stress levels. If your desire to stay informed about the news is also a source of stress, then it is essential for you and your family to find a balance.

Useful information on COVID-19 for our parents

Children and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | CDC

Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date. You can learn more about who is most at risk for health problems if they have COVID-19 ... read more

A message from Harbor School

We want our Harbor School families to know that we are here for you and want to support you during these challenging days. We cannot begin to imagine how difficult this situation must be for your child and your family. We will continue to post monthly school articles which we hope will provide useful information to assist you as you navigate this new reality and its impact on your daily life.

Please know that we are here if you need us. Take care!

From all of us at the Harbor School

Anne Gunteski, 
Principal-Harbor School, Eatontown, NJ