How to Cope with Stress from COVID-19

There is a lot of information bombarding us with the coronavirus. It can make anyone feel worried and anxious about upcoming changes. We are potentially faced with working from home, staying at work, lack of work, work shut down, shopping for supplies and facing the unknown. You are right to worry but don’t let it overwhelm you. 

If you already face anxious thoughts, worrying about your health or about the future, then this guide can be helpful on certain topics to help reduce anxiety. But first – If you feel like you may be a threat to yourself or others, make sure you contact 911 and discuss your feelings with your primary physician.

You can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517) 

If you may need additional assistance, there are a number of resources that can be helpful. Harvard Health Resources

How to Cope with Stress from COVID-19

What is the Coronavirus?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. COVID-19 is officially a global pandemic. The virus is contagious and no vaccine is currently available, but researchers across the global are working on a vaccine and medical treatment. 

  • People over 60 and anyone with immunodeficiency are particularly vulnerable should limit exposure by staying home as much as possible.
  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

How Can I Cope?

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people, especially those already diagnosed with anxiety or prone to anxious thoughts. Fear and anxiety may increase due to the unknown time interval when we can go back to “normal”. These worries are normal but can be overwhelming in adults and children. Finding ways to cope with this stress and keep yourself and children busy will help make you, your family and community stronger. 

How you respond can make a big impact on those around you.  

Stress during an outbreak include:

  • Worry about your health and the health of your loved ones
  • Fear can increase of the unknown
  • You may note changes in sleep or eating patterns, which can increase anxiety if you aren’t taking care of yourself
  • Becoming hyper aware of symptoms or current chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

Ways to Cope

  • Be informed.
  • Continue taking prescription medications as prescribed
  • Be aware of new symptoms and discuss with primary doctor
  • Take daily precautions for your health
  • Wash hands
  • Stay away from other that may be sick
  • Find alternative ways to stay in communication with family and friends (ie, phone, email, social media or Skype.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories about the virus, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can cause more anxiety.
  • Begin taking a daily inventory of your feelings. 
  • 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.
  • Start spring cleaning and go through belongings to organize and declutter.
  • Try to do some new activities you enjoy.
  • Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

For Parents

Children and teens react to their environment. If they see you stress out, they will follow the pattern you show including taking note from other adults in their lives. Provide a listening ear and support for any questions they may have regarding COVID-19. When we talk to children and teens calmly and reassuringly, they will feel better prepared to cope with their anxiety. 

Just like adults, not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. 

Some common changes include:

  • Increased crying, agitation or irritation in young children
  • Regressing behaviors they have outgrown (for example, sucking their thumb or bedwetting)
  • Over worry, amped up or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping patterns
  • In teens – Irritability and “acting out” behavior
  • Poor school performance or avoiding school
  • Poor attention and concentration
  • Depressed symptoms
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

How to Support your Child or Teen

  • Talk to your child. Listen and answer any questions they may have. Explain facts that apply to their age group. Review facts about COVID-19 together from reputable sources and not on social media. 
  • Calmly reassure them that they are safe and it is okay to worry for the unknown. Explain positive ways to address anxiety and worry so they learn positive ways to cope with their stress. 
  • Limit watching the news including social media. 
  • Keep up with regular routines and schedule learning activities, relaxing or fun activities.
  • Take care of yourself.  Keep up with good sleep patterns, exercise with your children or teen, try to find personal time and eat well. Connect with friends and family members.

What if you have COVID-19?

Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others; therefore, it is recommended by the CDC that these patients remain in isolation or are quarantined at a hospital or at home (depending on the severity of symptoms) so they don’t pass the illness to others. 

How long do I have to stay in isolation?

The Coronavirus is similar to a normal flu strain that we can get during flu season. This type of strain, however, is aggressive and can turn into Pneumonia quickly for those that have compromised immune systems. Symptoms and length of sickness vary from person to person. 

The conditions to be safely released after having the virus need to meet the following criteria and can be released once they are not considered to pose any additional risk of infection to others. The information from the CDC notes:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
  • The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.

If you suspect you have COVID-19, contact your primary doctor for further recommendations. It is recommended that those experiencing symptoms stay at home for 14 days for self-monitoring or if you get sick with COVID-19 and symptoms are no longer present. This helps to prevent you from symptoms worsening and passing the illness to others.

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