Since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all have been confronted with significant stress. Stress is the body’s response to any demand either pleasant or unpleasant. It is important to recognize the stress we are all under and take the necessary actions to reduce it in this difficult time.
Stress affects each of us in a different way. It can be manifested in physiological, behavioral or emotional responses. Physiological responses may include rapid heartbeat, decreased sleep or tension. Behavioral responses may include lack of self-care, withdrawal and isolation. Finally, emotional responses could include distractability, irritability and feelings of depression or anxiety.
Dealing with stress will keep us healthy and strong for the days ahead. It is important to deal with stress in our mind, body and spirit. “We may feel guilty about self care right now, but it is essential for our survival and our ability to care for the ones we love,” says Mather Hospital’s Assistant Vice President of Behavioral Health, Denise Driscoll, RN. “Accepting that we cannot control everything in this situation, will enable us to let go and divert feelings of powerlessness and negativity into positive actions. By doing this we can begin a change to induce healing and hope,” Driscoll said.
Here are some activities and strategies you can try from home to help manage your stress related to this pandemic. If one thing does not work for you, move on and try something else. Eventually you will find what works for you.
- Exercise. If moving your body helps lower your stress level, then do it. Go for a walk or a run outside or take an online fitness class.
- Journal. If you feel your anxiety begin to spike, write about how you’re feeling to help manage your stress. Or, try writing out your goals for the day to keep yourself focused. Your goals don’t have to be lofty; they can be as simple as going for a walk and eating a nutritious breakfast. Writing them down and then being able to cross them off your list will give you a feeling of security and control.
- Disengage. It might be hard, especially in times like these, but turn off the news and put your phone away. Paying attention to the constant crisis coverage by the media may just be adding fuel to the fire for your already heighten emotions and anxiety. It’s ok to take a break from it all and give your brain a rest. If you want the latest news and updates, find reliable sources of information that have not been sensationalized to keep your anxiety in check.
- Talk to someone. A lot of us are feeling isolated, but we’re more connected than ever. If you’re missing friends and family, call or video chat with them. Figuring out who you can reach out to when you’re in crisis is so important. Some of your closest friends and relatives may be feeling just as anxious as you are. Sharing your feelings can be beneficial for everyone and help you all feel calmer.
- Fuel your body. Eating regular meals and getting enough sleep are simple but often easily overlooked tactics for stress management. Take care of your body by giving yourself these basic necessities.
- Be kind to yourself. Matter-of-factly recognize and acknowledge your feelings, but don’t let the negative thoughts consume you. Realize that those feelings are there, but then focus on the good in every day. Be compassionate and patient with yourself as you work towards changing your internal dialogue to be one of positivity.
- Take your medications. If you’ve already been prescribed medication, keep taking it as prescribed and get your refills if possible.
- Allow yourself to feel your feelings. Feelings are like waves; they come, intensify and go. How we react and respond to feelings assist us make healthy choices and decrease stress.
Sometimes when stressors emerge, our routines get disrupted and without that structure, we stop using the coping mechanisms that work for us. It’s more important than ever to make sure you stay on track with good habits that keep you calm and healthy.
For additional resources on managing stress and anxiety around COVID-19, click here.