Lower anxiety by connecting more with family and friends

When an internist at Houston Methodist Hospital told us he has written more prescriptions to treat anxiety the past six weeks, than during his entire career, it got our attention.

"I frankly find it alarming. Primary care doctors take care of somewhere around 75% of all mental illness.  I would say in an average week, I write one or two prescriptions for emergency anxiety type medicines like Xanax and Valium, but I find myself now writing about four prescriptions a day," explains Dr. Joshua Septimus, an internist and Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine with Houston Methodist Hospital.

We want to make sure, as your station for health, that we're giving you ideas to help maintain your mental health.

There's no denying that stress levels are higher for many people than ever before, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides concern over catching a virus or struggling to pay bills, Dr. Septimus wants you to know one of his biggest concerns for many people is loneliness.

"We are not meant to be alone. We are meant to live with other people and to interact with other people, so finding ways to avoid social isolation is critical," explains Dr. Septimus.

He says whatever it takes, even if it's online, please make sure you are deeply connecting with family and friends.

"I think that we are intrinsically evolved and meant to live in family networks and in friendship networks and kind of a tribal society. Develop your own virtual or safe social distance network, even under the current time.  You can try FaceTiming with your family or FaceTiming with your friends. You see the pictures that are both sad and uplifting at the same time of families visiting Grandma in the nursing home and talking through a window. In my neighborhood, we're doing happy hours out in people's front yards, where everybody brings their own glass of wine and you set up chairs ten feet apart so that you can have some social interaction. I think it's important to try to continue to have social interactions, just in safe and socially appropriate ways," says Dr. Septimus.

Get creative!  Some people are organizing car discos! It gets them out of the house, but safely in their vehicles, and it looks like they're having a blast. Something like a drive-by party can also help lift you up, and these things don't cost a dime. Anything, but being alone all of the time.

Dr. Septimus suggests you talk to your doctor if you're struggling, to get even more tools to help you get through this.

"I think it's important that if you feeling like you're in crisis, if you're feeling palpitations, if you're having problems sleeping, that you contact your health care provider. Houston Methodist has virtual health available for both new and established patients and it's not just Houston Methodist by the way, every major healthcare institution in Houston is offering these services. We want to be there for patients. There are safe medications available to help you get through this and I promise, your primary care doctor is there for you, if you need him or her," encourages Dr. Septimus.

 If you're looking for healthcare at Houston Methodist, Dr. Septimus says the best thing to do is to download the "My Methodist" app at the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

For more information, click here.