Social distancing, isolation, quarantine, empty store shelves, a constant barrage of information - this is a particularly stressful time for our whole country. The frustration of not being able to engage in your regular routine; the anxiety produced by constantly monitoring yourself and others for signs and symptoms of illness; the fear of a potential loss of income; the anger at the challenges of securing the things you need; the sadness of watching your children miss out on so much; the fear of uncertainty about the future; and the loneliness of feeling cut off from the world - these are some of the circumstances that have become our reality and may be causing many of us an immense amount of stress.
As you go about your day trying to absorb the ever-changing information and updates, you may not even realize how the stress is affecting you. Are you exhibiting any of these symptoms?
- Worrying excessively
- Stomachaches and/or diarrhea
- Headaches and/or other aches and pains
- Loss of appetite or eating too much
- Feeling fearful, depressed, guilty, angry, or apathetic
- Trouble thinking clearly, concentrating, and having difficulty making decisions
- Increase or decrease in your energy and activity level
- Increase in your alcohol, tobacco use, or use of illegal drugs
- Increase in irritability, with outbursts of anger and frequent arguing
- Trouble relaxing or sleeping
- Crying frequently
- Inability to feel pleasure or have fun
If you or someone you know is obviously feeling the stress of the Covid-19 crisis, perhaps some of the following suggestions will help decrease or alleviate the symptoms:
Reduce anxiety by taking control of healthy actions that make you feel safer. Follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other experts by performing good hygiene habits that limit the risk of infection:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, or when unable to wash your hands use a hand sanitizer with at least a 70% alcohol base.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, then dispose of the tissue immediately. If you do not have a tissue, use your upper arm or elbow to cover your mouth. Wash your hands.
- Stay at home if you are sick.
- Avoid contact with those who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces regularly.
- Eat healthy foods, and drink plenty of water.
- Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
- Do not use tobacco or illegal drugs.
- Get enough sleep and rest.
Relax your body often by doing things that work for you - take deep breaths, stretch, pray, meditate.
Ground yourself with the Exercise of Five: List five things you see, five things you hear, five things you smell, five things you feel (wind, heat, the chair, etc.).
Pace yourself between stressful activities and do a fun thing after a hard task.
Staying up to date on news and information about Covid-19 is important, however, set limits. Spend time away from reading, watching, and talking about the pandemic and focus on things in your life that you are grateful for and that you can control.
Use time off to relax - eat a good meal, read, listen to music, take a bath, or talk to family and friends.
Focus on the positive parts of your life. Create a Gratitude List and read it often.
Reaching out to people you love and/or trust is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness, and boredom during social distancing, quarantine, and isolation. Use the telephone, email, text messaging, social media, and Skype or FaceTime to connect with friends, family, and others.
Improve your sense of control and ability to endure by recognizing, acknowledging and accepting the reality of your circumstances. Denial only delays the inevitable truth of the situation.
Combat unhelpful emotions by using distraction. Stay busy both mentally and physically.
Get organized. Prepare for any possibility by considering what you would do, what items you would need, who you would need to contact. Being prepared and organized helps you feel a sense of control, which can help reduce anxiety.
Shift negative self-statements to statements that allow you to function with less distress. Try changing "this is a terrible time" to "this is a terrible time, but I can get through this."
Try to engage in the situation as a challenge to be met. This can increase your ability to act both creatively and decisively.
Know When to Get Help
If you or someone you know shows signs of stress for several days or weeks, seek help from one or more of the following:
- Primary care physician
- The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health Centers:
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357),
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255),
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information on their website specifically devoted to handling the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic, including information specifically directed at helping children through the crisis: