5 things to know about mental and physical well-being from Dr. Lucy McBride

Protecting your mental health during coronavirus

Last Updated Mar 25, 2020 7:51 PM EDT

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that thousands of mental health professionals in the state had volunteered to provide free services to help people cope with stress related to coronavirus. Dr. Lucy McBride, Washington, D.C.-based internist whose practice is based on the connection between mental and physical health, joined the "CBS Evening News" to discuss how to maintain mental and physical wellness while practicing social distancing measures.

Here are our key takeaways from our conversation with Dr. McBride:

1) Quick strategies for managing anxiety and stress

For people feeling anxiety, Dr. McBride had several recommendations to manage their stress level. First, she said, "Take enormously deep breaths in through the nose." She also recommended people "learn to meditate, even if it's 30 seconds a day ... meditating helps bring us back to the present moment and helps us calm those stress hormones."

Other strategies she mentioned included: "trying to get into nature if you can if you're able to," and exercise. "Movement helps discharge adrenaline, helps quiet our mind," she told us.

2) The relationship between mental and physical health

Dr. McBride's D.C. practice is based on the connection of mental and physical health. She said the two "are like two parallel tracks for the train to run on. And if we're not addressing mental health in tandem with our physical health, we're really not delivering meaningful health care to patients."

3) On how she is advising her patients: "This is not forever"

"My job, as I see it as a doctor, is to replace fear with facts," Dr. McBride said. For patients in her practice, she's reminding them of three key things: "Number one, follow the facts. It's essential that we get fact based information from reliable sources. Number two, I'm telling them now that this is not forever. This will be over. Number three, that you are making a difference by distancing yourself from other people that not spreading the virus is actually helping tame the beast."

4) Anxiety is normal

In addition to being a physical health crisis, Dr. McBride said the coronavirus outbreak is a mental health crisis, as well. She said, "If you're anxious that makes you normal. It is normal to be anxious. We are wired as human beings for survival. And so our natural stress hormones are activated when we are faced with, with a threat. And this is a big threat. This is big."

5) Staying home makes a difference

In the face of a national crisis, some people feel helpless or anxious that they can't do more. Dr. McBride said she's reminding patients: "You are making a difference, just by staying home. When you are socially distancing. … You are making a difference by not spreading the virus."