If you are like most people, you are doing your best to stay calm during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are days or hours when you feel calm. You may be embracing the positives of “social distancing” or enjoying working from home. At other times, it can be difficult to manage the stress and anxiety.
Concerns about your health or a loved one’s health may feel overwhelming. The constant “breaking news”, conflicting and alarming information, and sad stories about people who have died from the virus produce a mixture of intense and stressful emotions. Financial stress or relationship stress may be heightened. Finding a new “normal” or day-to-day routine may be a challenge.
We are all affected by the pandemic, one way or another. The more we are affected, and the longer we are challenged by this, the more important it is to care for our mental health. Implementing effective strategies to cope with the stress and anxiety will result in more calm moments and better mental and physical health as we all move forward.
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 (difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much)
- Change in eating patterns (loss of appetite, or “emotional eating”)
- Difficulty concentrating or following through on tasks
- Irritability, anxiousness or feeling overwhelmed
- Depression, apathy, or increase in anger or aggression
- Increased use of alcohol or tobacco or excessive use of “mind-numbing” activities, e.g., binging on television or video games
- Worsening of chronic health problems (increase in symptoms)
If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some ways you can cope:
1. Limit Media Consumption
Hearing the media constantly spread panic isn’t good for anyone. It’s important to stay rational and do your own research to uncover facts from fiction, as well as stay positive. Limit the amount and number of times you “check the latest news”. Focus on what you do know and can do, not the fear of what could happen. Remember, the media wants your attention and can “sensationalize”.
2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit
Be sure to get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. Eat right and make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Avoid consuming too much alcohol or caffeine and try and find fun ways to reconnect with your family and friends, even as you practice “social distancing”. If you are a “person of faith”, spend time in worship, study, and prayer, practicing stillness, solitude and Sabbath rest.
3. Tap into Your Sense of Fun
If you have kids or grandkids, look to them for some good old-fashioned playtime. Play hide and seek in the house. Create an obstacle course in the back yard. Watch some of your favorite funny movies. Even if you don’t have children, make time for play and creativity. Laughter really is the best medicine, so get plenty of it. Creativity can create relaxation and joy.
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, store, hair salon, etc. to give them revenue now. You can use the card later. This will make you feel great at the same time. There are also opportunities to serve while maintaining proper social distancing.
5. Use Your Time Constructively
For many of us, there is a silver lining in this situation in the form of extra time. Focus on using this time wisely. Maybe you have an ever-growing list of home projects that you just never have time to tackle. Even if you don’t do home projects, create some structure and goals for each day.
6. Practice Emotional, Spiritual, and Physical Self-Care Daily
Ask yourself each day, “what can I do to care for myself emotionally, spiritually, and physically.” Emotional self-care may look like challenging negative thinking, journaling, or listening to something encouraging. Spiritual self-care may take the form of prayer, meditation or scripture study. Physical self-care can include stretching and exercise, eating healthy food and having a good “bedtime” routine.
If you find yourself becoming too stressed or depressed during this time, I encourage you to connect with me. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the situation and navigate the days ahead. I am currently able to conduct Telehealth counseling sessions using HIPPA-secure audio/video over the internet.
For more information about my services, go to: https://carmenscounseling.com or call: 502-306-0291.