How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

April 8, 2020

Trying to stay calm during the COVID-19 pandemic, can feel incredibly difficult at times. There are so many things to worry about these days: friends and loved one’s health, the economy, and what to even believe as this crisis unfolds. One of the most important things you can do during this stressful time is to take care of yourself – both your physical and mental health.

Signs of Emotional Distress and 6 Ways to Cope

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but most will exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Intense emotions
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increase conflict with loved ones
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some ways you can cope:

1. Limit Media Consumption and Look for the Good

Too much news isn’t good for anyone. While we need to have some idea of what is happening in the world, our nation, and our local areas, we also need to protect ourselves from overload. Try to limit your news intake by looking at headlines and then only reading articles from trusted sources one to two times a day for maximum of 15 minutes each or watching one half-hour news program. You need the highlights, not every story. Try to look for reliable reporting that focuses on just giving the facts, not inflating the drama. It can also really help to look for a feel-good story of people helping each other after you read about the tragedy. This is a serious global crisis, but in the face of crisis, we also see how people rise up and band together to support and help each other.

2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit

While it can be tempting to stay in your pajamas eating junk food and watching TV all day, be sure to balance “vegging out” time with other self-care. If possible, get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. If you can’t get out, try to do some indoor exercise and look out the window to feel connected to the world outside. Eating more comfort food right now is normal, but try to make sure that you are getting a balanced diet and staying hydrated. Also, try to keep to a regular schedule with plenty of sleep and then getting up and dressed to help you feel as normal as possible. Keep an eye on your alcohol or other mood-altering substance intake, because although it can be very tempting to not be present right now, you don’t want to make more problems for yourself.

3. Tap into Your Sense of Fun

If you have kids, look to them for some good old-fashioned playtime. Play hide and seek in the house or create an obstacle course in the back yard. Even if you don’t have kids, you were one once, so try and tap into your silly playful side. Watch some of your favorite funny movies or have a video hangout with your friends. Laughter really is the best medicine, so get plenty of it!

4. Support Your Local Community

Many local businesses are hurting right now. If you’re still getting a paycheck, consider buying a gift card from a local restaurant, gym, hair salon, etc. to give them revenue now and you can use the card later. Or get some take out from your favorite local restaurants. Have you seen posts to help in your local area? Making facemasks, donating CD players for nursing homes, or texting your neighbors to see if anyone is out of TP and offering to share your extra, are all ways to help. These efforts will help others and make you feel great at the same time.

5. Be a Role Model

Remember, your kids will ALWAYS look to you first to see how they should be thinking and feeling about something. Working on your self-care will help you stay calm and able reassure your kids everything will be okay -because it will be. This is the time to look for positive role models in our community and do our best to be one for our friends and family.

6. Use Your Time Constructively

For many of us, there is a silver lining in this situation in the form of extra time. Unless you are working from home and homeschooling your kids, in which case just do your best and tune out all of the extra project talk. But if you do have extra time, consider using this time wisely. Maybe you have an ever-growing list of home projects that you just never have time to tackle or a fun project that just keeps getting pushed off. Now is the time to dive in, keeping you feeling productive and engaged now, and clearing your list to make room for more fun later.

Everyone is going to have a slightly different reaction to this difficult time. If you find yourself becoming too stressed or depressed, I encourage you to reach out for help. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the stress and learn new coping skills to get you through. I am available for sessions through a secure video platform. Contact me today to set up a free consultation.


SOURCES:

https://www.ucihealth.org/news/2020/03/covid-19-anxiety

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/behavioral/stress_covid19.pdf

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