Staying mentally healthy during flu season

Oct 13, 2020

It’s natural to feel heightened concern and perhaps even experience anxiety about the news of a possible surge of COVID-19 cases in combination with the upcoming flu season.

Even though some amount of concern is expected — even normal — constant worry about the uncertainty that comes with flu season can be harmful to your mental health and wellness. Instead of focusing on what’s outside your control, try focusing on the steps you can take to boost your physical and emotional resilience.

“If you find yourself worrying excessively, take a moment to pause and take 3 or more slow deep breaths. Take a deeper breath than normal, really filling your lungs, during a slow count to 4. Exhale over a slow count to 5 or 6,” said Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s national leader for mental health and wellness. “This kind of conscious control of your breath is fundamental to practices of mindfulness and meditation. It can be a great way to settle your mind and body in response to stress and you can practice it anytime.”

Mordecai also offers the following suggestions to help people manage anxiety this flu season:

  • Stay informed. Read the latest information to have awareness of flu facts, myths, and symptoms to watch for.
  • Get the flu shot. It is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu. Read this article of the different flu shot options offered this year.
  • Talk to someone. Giving and receiving support is crucial to a sense of well-being, which reduces stress. Tell friends and family how you’re feeling so that they can support you.
  • Get outside. Fresh air and sunshine lift your spirits, and vitamin D from the sun aids in your immune response. If you can, take a walk, maybe up a hill or near water, where you can reconnect with the larger world beyond your walls.
  • Build in exercise time. Exercise improves your mood and boosts your immune system. Be creative with what you have around the house to modify your workout; use online tools to exercise with others whenever possible.
  • Get enough sleep. Experts recommend getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night in order to improve your immune response and to provide a host of other mental and physical health benefits. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is essential.

Members who have symptoms of the flu or COVID-19, please call our nurse advice line, email your doctor, or make a phone appointment. If you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

Additional tools and resources

  • Take advantage of myStrength and Calm, digital self-care apps that provide mental wellness and mindfulness resources to Kaiser Permanente members at no additional cost. (Calm is currently not available for  Kaiser Permanente Washington members at no cost.)
  • Find advice from Kaiser Permanente experts in the Mental Health section of About KP.
  • Visit our Find Your Words site, which provides information and resources to help start a conversation and get support for yourself or someone you care about.
  • Kaiser Permanente members can also go to to get connected to care.

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