April is Stress Awareness Month, and since social distancing guidelines to help prevent spread of COVID-19 have been extended through the end of the month, it’s a good time to consider ways to manage stress and anxiety related to current events.
Stress can bring out strong emotions in all of us. Older adults, individuals with chronic diseases, children, teens, health care providers, and people who have mental health conditions may feel coronavirus stress particularly keenly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress during an infectious disease outbreak may include:
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health issues
- Fear and worry about your health as well as the health of your loved ones
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Taking care of yourself and your loved ones can help you cope with stress. Helping others manage their stress can also strengthen your community.
Strategies to Decrease Stress
Take breaks from the news, including social media. You might feel like you “have” to stay connected right now, but watching, reading, and listening to the news non-stop can be upsetting. Try limiting your news intake to sources you trust (such as the CDC) and only checking the news a couple of times a day to stay informed without feeling overwhelmed.
Make time to take care of yourself. Focus on eating well-balanced meals, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Take deep breaths and make time to unwind. Spend time connecting with others: drop a note in the mail for an old friend, call someone you love, set up a video chat with a group of friends.
Supporting Children and Teens
As a parent or caregiver, the best example you can provide for the children and teens in your life is to deal with COVID-19 as calmly and confidently as possible. Life has changed drastically, particularly for students who were accustomed to being in the classroom and participating in activities. Be patient and encourage your child to keep a pandemic journal in some fashion. Recording a daily video or writing down what life is like now may be therapeutic, and having a project to work on can provide a sense of purpose.
Take time to talk about the COVID-19 outbreak, answer questions, and share facts. Social media can spread disinformation quickly, so make sure that your child is well-informed. Try to keep regular routines as much as possible. Limit news exposure in your household.
Wash your hands and stay healthy!