It is important to note that these are unprecedented times and there are so many unknowns and thus, no roadmap to get through this. What we do know is that the same strategies and techniques that we use to deal with all types of stress, anxiety, and depression will be appropriate for getting through the emotional impact of this pandemic also.
Typical Reactions during and Outbreak (CDC)
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones. This may be exacerbated in high-risk populations
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
- Denial and lack of acceptance that this is occurring
- Increase use of alcohol, tobacco or other substances
- Worsening of mental health and/or chronic illnesses
Understand that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and attempt to be patient and understanding with yourself and others as we all work to cope with the situation.
Strategies for taking care of yourself:
- Limit your consumption of news about COVID rather than focusing on getting information from one trusted source on a daily basis. Looking continuously at the news may raise your anxiety levels. Also, try not to look at the news before bedtime.
- Focus on healthy eating habits (well-balanced diet limiting sweets) as much as possible and getting plenty of rest.
- Relax by taking regular deep breaths, stretching, yoga, and meditating. There are several good apps for meditation such as Headspace and Ten percent. These apps will give you guided instructions to relax during the day and at bedtime
- Try to get exercise, even while sheltering in place. Take walks or run, using masks and practicing social distance, do housework, or at-home workouts.
- Find activities, even new ones, that bring you joy. I have heard of people who have learned a new hobby such as sewing, writing, coloring….as long as it relaxes you and makes you happy. Many people are finding ways to help others during this time, such as making masks, running an errand for an older adult without resources, etc. Helping others can be a real source of pride and joy.
- Add routine to your day, particularly during quarantine or Shelter-in-Place order. It will give you a sense of structure to your day and is particularly helpful if children are in the household.
- Avoid overuse of alcohol, tobacco or drugs……nothing else to say here but overuse can lead to new problems or resurrect old ones.
- CONNECT with others. Use technology, phone calls, social media to stay connected. A lot of people are having Zoom parties and there are lots of humorous things on the internet to share with others. Share your thoughts and fears with others who will inevitably validate your feelings.
- Be patient with yourself…..expect ups and downs. This is a marathon and there will be some good days and some tougher days. Use the techniques discussed above and know that tomorrow will be a better day. Rely on your faith if you are religious, to get you through a trying day.
- If you feel like you can not make it without additional support, do not hesitate to reach out to your mental health professional or your primary care doctor. They will be ready to assist you.
This is a temporary set of circumstances. It will pass and things will return to normal. It may be a while before this happens, so you must adjust to this new reality. We are in this together and the health of our communities depends on the behaviors each of us chooses.