Ways to Alleviate Stress and Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Across the country, the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has affected all facets of life. For many, the day-to-day uncertainty caused by the pandemic can result in increased stress and anxiety.
During these trying times, being mindful of mental health needs is critically important. In addition, for anyone already dealing with mental health issues, a substance use disorder or intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD), the stress of the current health crisis may present additional challenges.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Monarch Medical Director Dr. Nora Dennis, M.D., M.S.P.H., suggested that adhering to and keeping in mind simple safety tips, including staying calm, can be beneficial.
Recognizing Signs of Stress
The uncertainty of the crisis or the ever-changing information across multiple channels can be overwhelming. “There are times when stress can help you think more clearly, but when you are too stressed that can impact your ability to make good choices,” Dr. Dennis explained, noting that stress over an extended period of time can be both physically and mentally unhealthy.
When possible, Dr. Dennis advised to stay calm and adhere to guidelines provided and updated by state and federal authorities. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), signs of stress during an infectious outbreak can include fear and worry about one’s health; changes in sleep or eating patterns; difficulty concentrating; worsening of chronic health problems; and increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
Practicing Care for Self and Community
Health professionals say that practicing self-care, which can include exercise, time outdoors, sufficient nightly sleep, healthy eating habits and proper hand washing hygiene, is critical to slowing the spread of germs. Continuing to connect and talk with friends and family is also important to a sense of wellness.
“Knowing that you might get sick can be a motivator to take good care of your body and truly appreciate the state of health that you are in currently,” Dr. Dennis noted.
Social distancing is recommended, opting for virtual events whenever possible. People who can work remotely are advised to do so. In hopes of reducing the spread of COVID-19 within your community, Dr. Dennis advised to read and follow the recommendations of state and federal officials.
Taking a Break from the News, Social Media
Today’s 24/7 news alerts can present challenges for those dealing with anxiety. Limit screen time and time spent viewing social media, for both children and adults, since hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting, Dr. Dennis suggested.
Limit checking news outlets to once or twice a day and select a few trusted resources such as the CDC or North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) to get the latest news and directives.
Above all, it is important to remain calm and assist family and loved ones. “It is important to be a voice for positivity and calm. When you voice those sentiments, you can change the way your own mind is processing the information,” Dr. Dennis suggested.
For additional information, please contact Monarch at (866) 272-7826 or visit the Monarch Center for Wellness page for resources on meditation, mindfulness, stress reduction and depression.
Additional Mental Health Resources
- Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19
- Stigma and Resilience
- American Psychological Association (APA)
- National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI)