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Coping with Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Stress due to the fear and anxiety caused as the pandemic rages around the nation may be something, we are all dealing with in one form or another. 

We worry about possible outcomes for ourselves and our loved ones.  We social distance and feel isolated and lonely.  Some of us may be dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one.   Children may also feel upset or have other strong emotions if they, or someone they know, has COVID-19, even if they are now better and able to be around others again.  The very length of dealing with the outbreak for so long, adds to the unrelenting nature of our anxiety. 

Fortunately, it appears that an end is in sight and we look forward to vaccine approval and the beginning of the vaccination process.  However, we still have at least the first half of 2021 to navigate as experts predict that we might not get back to normal until the fall.

Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.  We post these recommendations from the CDC[1] to help you navigate through these trying times. 

Symptoms

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. You and your family members may be experiencing a variety of strong emotions, from anxiety, to anger, to sadness or feeling overwhelmed.  Look for the following: 

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.

Recommendations To Reduce Your Stress

Learn the common signs of stress such as those listed above.  Do take breaks from news stories, including social media. Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy. Connect with others by phone, text or email. Share your concerns and feelings with people you trust. People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. They should contact their healthcare provider with any concerns or if stress gets in the way of daily activities for several Days In A Row.

Take Care Of Yourself And Your Community

Taking care of your friends and your family can be a stress reliever, but it should be balanced with care for yourself. Helping others cope with their stress, such as by providing social support, can also make your community stronger. During times of increased social distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health. Phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel socially connected, less lonely, or isolated.

Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress

  • Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19. Contact a health professional before you start any self-treatment for COVID-19.
  • Know where and how to get treatmentand other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
  • Take care of your emotional health.Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
    • Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
    • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

Know The Facts To Help Reduce Stress

Knowing the facts about COVID-19 and stopping the spread of rumors can help reduce stress and stigma. Understanding the risk to yourself and people you care about can help you connect with others and make an outbreak less stressful.

Take Care Of Your Mental Health

Mental health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It may also affect how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices during an emergency.

People with pre-existing mental health conditions or substance use disorders may be particularly vulnerable in an emergency. Mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia) affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior in a way that influences their ability to relate to others and function each day. These conditions may be situational (short-term) or long-lasting (chronic). People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. If you think you have new or worse symptoms, call your healthcare provider.

Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. Free and confidential resources can also help you or a loved one connect with a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

Get Immediate Help In A Crisis

Suicide

Different life experiences affect a person’s risk for suicide. For example, suicide risk is higher among people who have experienced violence, including child abuse, bullying, or sexual violence. Feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and other emotional or financial stresses are known to raise the risk for suicide. People may be more likely to experience these feelings during a crisis like a pandemic.

However, there are ways to protect against suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For example, support from family and community, or feeling connected, and having access to in-person or virtual counseling or therapy can help with suicidal thoughts and behavior, particularly during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recovering From COVID-19 Or Ending Home Isolation

It can be stressful to be separated from others if you have or were exposed to COVID-19. Each person ending a period of home isolation may feel differently about it.

Emotional reactions may include:

  • Mixed emotions, including relief.
  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
  • Stress from the experience of having COVID-19 and monitoring yourself or being monitored by others.
  • Sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones have fears of getting the disease from you, even though you are cleared to be around others.
  • Guilt about not being able to perform normal work or parenting duties while you had COVID-19.
  • Worry about getting re-infected or sick again even though you’ve already had COVID-19.
  • Other emotional or mental health changes.


Children may also feel upset or have other strong emotions if they, or someone they know, has COVID-19, even if they are now better and able to be around others again.

NJ Resources

If you're feeling stressed, anxious or depressed due to COVID-19, please call New Jersey's Mental Health Hotline at 877-294-HELP (4357) or visit njmentalhealthcares.org for emotional support, guidance, and mental health referrals as needed. 

You also may call the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or Text TalkWithUs to 66746 (TTY 1-800-846-8517).

Helpful Links

Check out the following links from the Centers for Disease Control focused on the Pandemic.

Coping with Stress
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

How to Protect Yourself and Others
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html 

Helping Children Cope with Grief
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/stress-coping/grief-loss.html#children

What to do when you are sick
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

Taking care of your emotional health
https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp

Suicide Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/index.html

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html 

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