How to Cope With COVID-19 Stress and Anxiety
With new strains of COVID-19 such as the Delta variant on the rise, rules and regulations constantly changing and endless media coverage, many of us continue to feel overwhelmed, stressed and anxious about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Public health mandates like social distancing can make us feel isolated and lonely, increasing the stress we already feel. Learning to cope with stress and anxiety is crucial for those struggling with the negative mental health impacts of the pandemic.
Signs of Stress
Stress and anxiety can look and feel different for everyone, but the most common signs of high levels of stress are:
- Recurring feelings of fear, sadness, worry or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires and interests
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems and skin rashes
- Worsening chronic health problems
- Worsening mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances
At a time like this, it’s completely normal to experience the aforementioned symptoms and feelings. The good news is, you’re not alone, and there are many ways to cope with the stress and anxiety caused by COVID-19. Here are ways that you can help yourself, others and your community manage stress and anxiety related to the pandemic:
- Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories. Be mindful of social media and news reports that may trigger anxiety. Focus your attention on positive, trusted sources of information. Consider limiting exposure to media to once a day, or however much feels healthy for you. Actively seeking out positive messages around improvements in the pandemic, such as the vaccine rollouts, can be helpful as well.
- Take care of your body. Taking deep breaths, stretching or meditating throughout the day can greatly reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. It’s also important to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep to feel your best.
Take things slow despite the desire for a rapid return to normalcy; step outside of your comfort zone at a pace that works for you while still practicing safety measures to gradually ease back into your pre-COVID routine.
- Make time to unwind. Take part in activities you enjoy; spending time outdoors, home-improvement projects and arts and crafts are all activities that can provide an uplifting, socially-distanced distraction. Additionally, this is a great time to explore something new! Experimenting with a unique recipe, trying out a different way to exercise or even an act as simple as picking up an unusual book can be a great way to focus your energy on something positive.
- Connect with others. Simply talking with people you trust about your worries can greatly reduce stress and anxiety. Working through complex feelings with a trusted person builds mutual understanding and increases confidence.
Also, taking care of yourself can better equip you to take care of others. During times of social distancing, it is especially important to stay connected with your friends, family and community; helping others cope with stress through phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely or isolated.
Resources and Social Support Services
If you are struggling to cope with stress or anxiety related to your health and the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many ways to get help. If stress is getting in the way of your daily routines and activities for more than a few days in a row, call your healthcare provider or seek the help of a professional.
During times of extreme stress, people may have thoughts of suicide. Suicide is preventable, and help is available. Learn more about the risk of suicide, signs to watch for and how to respond if you notice these signs in yourself, a friend or a loved one, here.
The following free and confidential crisis resources can also help you or a loved one connect with a skilled, trained mental health professional in your area:
- Food and Food System Resources During COVID-19 Pandemic
- Disaster Financial Assistance with Food, Housing, and Bills
- Coronavirus Resources for Renters
- US Department of Labor Coronavirus Resources
During these stressful times, it’s easy to feel frustrated by everyone recovering at their own pace. As lockdowns and mandates ease, some people are more comfortable returning to normal routines than others.
Patience with ourselves and those around us, as well as understanding that we are all in a different place, will fuel the respect and appreciation that we need to get through this challenging, shared human experience.