Certain coping strategies can help offset pandemic's mental health hits.

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Certain coping strategies can help offset pandemic's mental health hits.  Brinkwire
The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to negative mental health effects for many in the U.S., according to new Penn State research. But the researchers also found that some coping techniques—like wearing masks and focusing on self-care—were linked with positive mental health.

Erina MacGeorge, professor of communication arts and sciences, said the results—recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health—may give clues about how people can continue to cope with the pandemic, as well as which populations may need extra care and assistance.

"These populations may include young people, those with pre-existing conditions, and those who don't have much social support from family and friends," MacGeorge said. "As individuals, we can help bolster our own mental health by protecting ourselves from COVID-19 as much as possible—like with social distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing—by seeking support when we need it, and choosing activities that keep us moving forward, such as looking for safe ways to have fun and help others."

After the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in the middle of March 2020, a cascade of measures meant to slow the spread—such as school and business closures and social distancing requirements—went into effect.

The researchers said that while necessary, these measures helped contribute to people experiencing excess stress not only from fear of the disease itself, but also from other factors such as financial stress, problems finding child care, and separation from friends and family, among others.

"I've spent much of my career studying social support, which is one important factor in how people respond to traumatic events," said MacGeorge. "Living through the earliest…
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