Our lives have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many challenges we face today that can be stressful, overwhelming, and result in strong emotions in children and adults. It is necessary to implement public health measures, such as social distancing, to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, but these measures can result in isolation and loneliness and can increase stress and anxiety.
Being able to deal with stress in a healthy manner will make you, your loved ones, and everyone else around you much more resilient.
Some of the effects of stress include:
- Emotions of fear, anger, sadness, worry or frustration
- Mood swings, energy, desire or interest changes
- Inability to concentrate
- Sleep problems or nightmares
- Symptoms such as rashes, headaches, body pains and stomach problems
- An increase in chronic health problems
- Deterioration of mental health
- Substance abuse
When a pandemic like COVID-19 occurs, it is normal for people to experience stress, anxiety and grief. There are several ways for you to handle stress, for others, and for your community.
Related: Corona Virus Effects on Brain
Tips for coping with COVID-19 stress
- Don’t watch, read, or listen to news stories on social media, including those on Facebook and Twitter. Although being informed is a good thing, hearing about the pandemic all the time can be extremely distressing. Disconnect from the TV, phone, and computer for a while and only read the news a few times a day.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Try stretching, taking deep breaths or meditating
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Do not overindulge in alcohol, tobacco or drugs
- Routine preventive measures should be followed (such as vaccines, cancer screenings, etc.)
- Be sure to get the COVID-19 vaccine
- Taking time to unwind – Try doing something else you enjoy.
- Get in touch with trusted people and let them know how you are feeling and your concerns
- Join a faith-based or community organization – Try contacting the organization by phone, email or online.
Be prepared, don’t panic
There is a lot of information floating about the new Coronavirus on news outlets and social media. Although some of it may be true, a lot may be wrong or only partly accurate, especially as information changes rapidly.
Obtaining up-to-date, scientific information about health issues and how to prevent illness is recommended by McGuire through credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
McGuire says knowing and preparing for an emergency can reduce feelings of panic. Individuals can develop personal plans of action by using information from trusted resources.
Related: COVID-19 and Depression
Speak with your children
The new Coronavirus may cause anxiety or fear in children. McGuire advises validating worries rather than simply dismissing them outright. Here are some tips:
- Listen. Providing children with correct information can help ease their worries after hearing them out.
- Inform children correctly. Give your children accurate information about the virus so they are less likely to catch it. McGuire explains to children that they can be asked specific concerns or what they know about the Coronavirus, and given practical recommendations for minimizing the risk.
- Focus on prevention. Focus on prevention. Keep a regular schedule for playtime, meals and other activities, and teach healthy hand-washing habits.
When a family member has COVID-19 or another illness, children might not understand. McGuire says this is where having a proactive plan is critical to minimizing worries and focusing on proactive solutions. Ensure that your explanations are clear and helpful. You know your child best.
McGuire says it is unclear if short-term stress increases the risk of developing the new coronavirus. Stress can alter the immune system, but it isn’t known whether it does. It’s important to reduce stress as effectively as possible.
Mindfulness can help you decrease anxiety by grounding you in the present moment. During challenging times, mindfulness can be helpful in reducing stress, says McGuire. Simply sitting quietly and focusing on your senses and breathing will help you to practice mindfulness.
You can also limit computer screen time and media exposure to manage stress. “Although keeping up to date with current events is important, there can be problems when we pay too much attention,” says McGuire. It’s important to create boundaries and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
“Don’t let fear dictate how you live your life.”
Read: COVID Anxiety Syndrome
Assisting others to cope
You can better help others if you take care of yourself. Staying close to your friends and family is especially important during times of social distance. Your loved ones will feel less lonely and isolated if you can help them cope with COVID-19 stress through phone calls or video chats.