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  • Managing Stress During COVID-19

    June 12, 2020

    Although no one can tell for certain, life after the COVID-19 pandemic had subsided is likely to bring on changes in your life at a personal and societal level. How you socialize, work, and travel all might alter. You may also experience lingering anxieties about COVID-19 returning, which may cause you stress.

    It’s normal to have trouble managing stress after major, life-changing upheaval. The way you can manage these unavoidable stressors plays a vital role in your ability to take care of yourself and continue to move forward.

    Finding support through family, friends, and others

    Talk with people and share your experiences with one another. This can ease pent-up frustration and help you see that others share your feelings. However, remind yourself that everyone’s experience is unique, and people’s reactions may differ from your own.

    Watch for behaviour changes in children. Keep in mind that young children may show stress in different ways than adults do. Depending on their age, they might be worried about the risk of catching COVID-19. Talk with your paediatrician if you see changes that concern you or that you don’t understand or if you have other questions.

    Tap into your support network. Keep in touch with family and friends that you got closer with during the pandemic. Speak over video chat or by phone, send group texts or emails, or use social media to let those you’re close with know how you are and what kind of help you could use from them. 

    Don’t be afraid to set boundaries for those who have not been helpful in the past. If someone has been a source of anxiety or worry for you, you may want to limit how often you speak to them. You may also wish to restrict how much you share online.

    Help others as much as you can. Making small contributions—even if you need a lot of help yourself—can buffer many of the negative effects of stress, a recent study found. You may be able to help others by answering calls for donations of food from a local food bank. (Look for appeals for help in community groups on websites like Nextdoor or Facebook.) You might consider offering to do errands or get groceries for vulnerable people. Even listening to the worries of friends or neighbours who are struggling can help. However, it is also important to recognize when you are not emotionally or financially able to help.

    Keep up any ties to a faith tradition. When houses of worship re-open, they will most likely resume providing food, shelter, and other support. Stay involved in your faith community if you have one. It will help ease stress and provide opportunities to give back to your community.

    Find the information you need to move forward from verifiable sources. Knowing the facts—about physical distancing measures, emergency services, support services available for those who are vulnerable in your community—will help give you a sense of control and lower your stress level. Try to narrow down your goals into small, easily-achievable tasks.

    Ask for help if you need it. Get help if your stress seems to go on for longer than that of others, or if it’s so intense it interferes with your work, relationships, or ability to enjoy life. Talk with a mental health professional such as a counsellor at your assistance program about how you’re coping with the life changes. If you’re struggling with a personal loss, you might also join or start a support group for those who have lost loved one to COVID-19. A community hospital, mental health centre, or house of worship may have helpful programs.

    Staying strong as you move forward

    Put health and safety first. Make it a top priority to protect your health and safety and that of your family. Wait until the authorities say it’s safe to return to workplaces, schools, and public spaces before returning to life as usual.

    Continue to pay attention to your physical health. Safety measures such as good hand washing can keep vulnerable people such as the elderly and those who are immuno-compromised safe. Be vigilant and keep in mind that the most common symptoms for COVID:

    • difficulty breathing

    • a high temperature

    • a continuous cough

    If you or anyone in your family are experiencing all these symptoms, seek medical attention.

    Take care of yourself. Coping takes energy, and you need fuel to make the next right decision. Try to get as much rest and exercise as you did before the limits set on you by COVID-19. Eat at least one balanced meal a day and healthy snacks at other times. Adapt your routines to your new situation as necessary.

    Avoid trying to ease stress with drugs and alcohol. These substances may appear to ease stress temporarily, but they can make it harder to cope in the long term.

    Use controlled breathing techniques to help you calm down when you are feeling stressed. Take a slow, deep breath by inhaling through your nose. Hold your breath for five seconds, and then exhale through your mouth. As you exhale, focus your thoughts on positive words and phrases, like “relax” or “I am handling this well.” Repeat this process several times.

    Limit your exposure to news coverage of COVID-19. News reports and social media helped you stay up to date on emergency alerts during the first weeks of the pandemic, But once the danger has passed, too much exposure can add to your stress and keep you from moving forward. You might consider checking verified news sources only once per day, so that you can feel informed but not overwhelmed. Keeping the news on throughout the day in your workplace or at home is not a good idea.

    Remember, the pandemic has caused major changes in all of our lives, and this sort of upheaval can be stressful. However, taking care of yourself, using techniques like controlled breathing, and staying connected to others can help you cope.


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