It is not easy to prevent stress, especially right now. Stress is the number one health problem for most people. Although stress itself cannot be a cause of death, the side effects from it can be. So many things cause stress in your daily life including the current pandemic. It can appear in the body in many ways and forms. Stress is brought on differently in every person and for some people; it is a debilitating disease that can ruin an entire life, under normal circumstances.
Under normal circumstances, there are many reasons for a person to feel stress, some of the can be work, family, health, a terrible or sudden loss of a loved one, an ended marriage or relationship or the loss of employment. Stress can come from anything and take over a person’s life very quickly. It is important for people to learn to prevent stress or more stress in their life.
Managing stress during this COVID19 pandemic is of utmost importance. Fear and anxiety about this virus can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Find ways you and your family can reduce stress.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Worsening of mental health conditions.
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
As the events surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak unfold, it’s understandable that you might begin to feel increasing stress. Information is rapidly changing and can be confusing, overwhelming and even scary. You may experience fear and spikes in anxiety. But even if you’re managing your anxiety levels well, there’s still so much more to deal with. Whether it’s dealing with at-risk family members or patients, a roller coaster economy, trying to juggle work, keeping kids occupied or homeschooling while schools are closed, or simply adjusting to a new, unfamiliar situation, stress can easily pile up and negatively impact you — both physically and mentally.
Maintain a healthy diet. You need to make sure that you are filling your body with healthy foods that will support your mental and physical health. Stress can adversely affect both your eating habits and your metabolism. The best way to combat stress or emotional eating is to be mindful of what triggers stress eating and to be ready to fight the urge. Keeping healthy snacks on hand will help nourish your body, arming yourself nutritionally to better deal with your stress.
Start or keep a regular exercise program. Exercise can make a person feel better, when they are feeling bad. Exercise will help take stress out of the body and help you feel better inside and out. You will be burning off calories and helping your body becomes stronger and healthier by reducing stress that you are accumulating. While gyms are closed and social distancing guidelines are in place, it’s still possible to get in aerobic exercise, like walking, running, hiking or playing with your kids/pets, all can help release endorphins (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude). And there are other exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home. Clinical psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP, recommends yoga and stretching as one way to both exercise your body and calm your mind and it’s easy to do by yourself.
Take a break. While it’s important to stay informed of the latest news and developments, the evolving nature of the news can get overwhelming. Find a balance of exposure to news that works for you. This is particularly important for our children. We need to limit their exposure to the media and provide age-appropriate information to them. Whenever reasonably possible, disconnect physically and mentally. Play with puzzles, a board game, do a treasure hunt, tackle a project, reorganize something, or start a new book that is unrelated to coronavirus coverage. Unplug and unwind wne possible.
Keep a good support system. This means that you should have the help that you are going to need from your friends and family. Connection is vitally important during uncertain times. Clinical psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP says “Fear and isolation can lead to depression and anxiety. We need to make a point to connect with others regularly.” Reach out to family members, friends and colleagues regularly via phone, text, FaceTime, Zoom or other virtual platforms. Make sure that you are checking on those that are alone. Check in regularly with your parents, grandparents and your children. Doing this will keep your stress and theirs at bay. Just knowing that all your friends and family members are safe is a huge stress relief. Try setting up a regular Zoom call or with all your family members present. It helps to be able to see them even if you cannot be near them.
Get sleep and rest. The ever-changing news environment can create a lot of stress, stress that gets amplified when you don’t get enough sleep. It’s especially important now to get the recommended amount of sleep to help you stay focused on work and on managing the stress the current outbreak can bring. Avoid stimulants like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed. If you still find yourself too stressed to sleep, consider developing a new pre-bedtime routine, including a long bath or a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea. And planning for tomorrow earlier in your day can help alleviate stress related to what’s to come. try and maintain a sense of normalcy through all the chaos.
If you are not able to manage your anxiety or depression on your own, reach out to a behavioral medicine provider for an in-person or virtual visit. There are also medications for people that are dealing with stress. There are different forms of prescription medication that that a doctor can prescribe, or forms of vitamins that can be used to help a person deal with stress as well.