Published on March 20, 2020

Woman with coffee, writing by the window

Tips for Taking the Stress Out of COVID-19

By Dr. Steve Kopp

Genesis Psychology Associates

The outbreak of COVID-19 is stressful for everyone, but particularly stressful for those who may be vulnerable because of underlying mental health issues.

Unexpected stress and change can significantly undermine our sense of control. We may feel overwhelmed by a sudden change in responsibilities and requirements. Our jobs may be different. We may be affected by long periods of social isolation as we stay home from work.

We may be disturbed by media reports about the outbreak. We may see images of product shortages and wonder whether we are actually prepared for a long period in our homes.

Will we still have a way to take care of financial responsibilities if we are out of work?

These are unique challenges presented by this type of upheaval in our lives.

We hope we can help with a few tips about maintaining balance and mental wellness during the outbreak. Here are things you can do to take care of yourself:

  • “Unplug” from the pandemic!: Repeatedly watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media, is upsetting and taxes your nervous system. Take breaks from it.
  • Take care of your body and it will take care of you: Take deep breaths regularly, stretch, and practice mindfulness. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Limit caffeine as it increases anxiety and stimulation.
  • Plan time to unwind: Do activities you enjoy. We need to balance ourselves with hobbies and healthy escapism. Relaxation, laughter, and smiling are beacons that you’re doing something right.
  • Social “distancing” doesn’t mean “disconnected.” We are social creatures. Stay connected to those you love. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Sharing your feelings makes others who are internalizing their struggles feel more normal. Neuroscience suggests, “name it, to tame it” when dealing with our anxieties and fears. Give it a try!
  • Take advantage of the time stuck in the house with those you love: Binge your favorite shows and movies together. Or play games. Enjoy the fact that the world has slowed down a bit. Even better, add fresh popcorn or a warm chocolate cake. Makes the house feel warm and relaxing.
  • Limit worries about the future: Stay in the here and now. Focus on what you can control.

Coping WELL with stress creates an opportunity to build strength and resiliency. Just like in exercise, building this type endurance takes realistic pacing, recovery, and proper care of the body through diet and sleep.

Just as we have seen over the last week, this situation is going to change and challenge us. Try to remain open-minded and flexible to new ways of accomplishing your goals.

Be well, be safe, and stay healthy.

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