Managing Stress and Anxiety During a Pandemic
Following on from last week’s post about how to cope with being quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic, today’s article looks in more detail at how we can all be managing stress and anxiety during a pandemic, or indeed any protracted difficult time in our lives. Even as people in some countries look forward to certain restrictions being lifted soon, the level of anxiety globally remains high and most people find the uncertainty and instability very stressful. We hope that these articles, and many others online, help you to find healthy coping behaviours that help you and your loved ones, but remember that everyone is struggling to some degree and it is ok to not feel ok. If you find your feelings are becoming overwhelming and you are struggling to maintain a healthy balance, please do reach out and talk to someone, or even make an appointment for a counselling session. We are here to help you when you need us.
Our current world-wide health crisis is on everyone’s mind; we haven’t seen this level of catastrophic illness and death since the 1918 flu pandemic. COVID-19 will go down in history as the pandemic that brought the busy, digitized world to a grinding halt. It has shown us the importance of preparation and shared resources.
Coronavirus has reminded us that we have precious little control over the micro-world of viruses and how they impact human life.
It has also reminded us that our behaviours do matter; the decisions we make directly impact our health and safety.
The stakes are high with COVID-19 and naturally, our emotions may be brittle as a result.
Stress and anxiety are normal responses to the abnormal situation that Coronavirus has brought our way. As we face the unusual situation of being less involved with the outside world and staying home to prevent illness from spreading, it can cause anxiety levels to spike.
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR EMOTIONS DURING COVID-19
Because our lives have been hijacked by COVID-19, it is more important than ever to pay attention to our mental health needs.
Checking in with ourselves regularly about thoughts and feelings is an important step in self-care, as well as finding a healthy balance between staying informed and taking a break from news. Make an agreement with yourself to skip the news for one full day. You might be surprised how much your anxiety levels decline.
Staying in touch with others is vital
Even though social gatherings are not advised, making time to talk on the phone, chat online or video conference can reduce feelings of isolation.
There are ways to connect with people by playing online games such as Pictionary and other board games, as well as digital versions of these classics.
Laughter and diversion
Even in everyday life, these are important aspects of self-care, but especially right now when we are so inundated by the daily stressors of the pandemic and following safety measures.
Tune into stand-up comedy, a funny movie, show, or book.
Simple, light-hearted humour can be a healthy reminder that there is a lot to laugh about, even during this challenging period in our lives. Healthy distractions are like a mini vacation for the mind, and it’s important to take one every day. Make it your goal to completely forget about the pandemic for at least an hour each day by using distraction activities.
Cook some new recipes. Make music. Write stories or poems. Even if these aren’t things you normally do, take a chance and try something new. Now is a great time to experiment with new hobbies, during this strange period of extra time at home.
Techniques such as 4-7-8 breathing and mindful meditation are great practices at a time like this. Mind-body techniques offer a double-whammy for stress reduction, as they simultaneously calm the mind while offering physiological relaxation to the body.
BEHAVIOURS TO AVOID DURING COVID-19
Just as certain behaviours can help your emotional health during this pandemic, others can harm you or put you and others at risk.
Alcohol and Drugs
It can be tempting to resort to alcohol or drugs as a means of escaping from stress, but these choices can have unintended consequences of dependence and mood changes. Substances may provide a sense of relaxation for a short time, but the chronic stress that we are experiencing as a society still lurks beneath the surface.
Isolation and Anxiety
The agitation of being isolated and anxious, combined with substance use, can manifest as anger or exaggerated distress, which can worsen relationships with loved ones. People using substances during crises also tend to make poor choices, which in this case could result in exposure to a dangerous virus or impulsive behavioUrs that make things worse.
The pandemic has also resulted in nationwide panic about household cleaning supplies and toiletries. While it is important to get household items, try not to get into a hoarding mindset, as it deprives others of their fair share of supplies. It might help to roughly figure how much you will need for two weeks and purchase that amount of product, which will leave plenty for others in need.
“THIS SHALL PASS”
As we continue to weather this pandemic, remind yourself that this will pass. Eventually, COVID-19 cases will decrease, and our hard-working scientists and physicians will find treatments that effectively treat this virus. We simply need to keep on keeping on. Making healthy choices to stay at home and take precaution when venturing out for necessary tasks will keep us safe and well.
[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website www.livingwithfinesse.com ~ some content may have been modified for the UK context.]