The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has created high levels of stress and fear for many of us. The anxiety that a disease such as this can bring on can seem overwhelming to many people but learning to cope with and manage that stress is important for every one of us.
While we all have different reactions to stressful situations, there are ways for most people to reduce the negative effects that the stress of a crisis can have for us and those around us.
As you might expect, fear and anxiety over this disease is highest for those most at risk. This can include older people and those with chronic diseases and other underlying health issues putting them at higher risk. But stress can also be high for those whose work requires them to deal directly with the disease and those suffering from it. This includes not only doctors and other health care providers, but first responders as well.
The effects of stress that an infectious disease outbreak can bring on include not merely worrying about your own health and the health of those close to you, but also the changes it may bring to your life. You may find you're experiencing changes in eating or sleeping patterns. Everyday issues or simply concentrating may be more difficult to handle. Excessive stress can lead to a worsening of chronic health issues and may lead some to increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs. Those with preexisting mental health conditions may find themselves facing new or worsening symptoms.
It's important to pay attention to high stress levels in your life and to try to reduce their effects as best you can. One starting point is to simply take breaks from all the news stories and social media reporting of the pandemic. Constantly reading or hearing about the issue only amplifies the stress you're already feeling.
It's also important to stay physically and mentally healthy. Eat regular, well-balanced, healthy meals. Get plenty of exercise (maybe your gym is closed, but the great outdoors offers plenty of opportunities for walks), stay well rested and avoid drugs and alcohol. Make time to relax, maybe reading books or watching favorite TV shows. Stay in contact with others using the phone or texting if self-isolating is being practiced.
If you find your stress is overwhelming, call your health provider. Stay in control and you'll get through this.