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Coping During COVID-19

 

I’m not sleeping well. The healthy, balanced diet I’d cultivated over the last year feels like a memory from another lifetime. My eating habits have slid firmly into the comfort category, making me grateful I can wear my yoga pants while I work from home.

My normal escapes and preferred ways to unwind no longer hold my attention. I feel distracted. Stressed. I still smile. I still laugh. But I don’t feel like myself. I don’t feel right. And I am not the only one.

Even if you aren’t sick and don’t know anyone who is, COVID-19 has brought up a lot of uncertainty. And if you’re more personally affected by the coronavirus with you or loved ones suffering from the virus, the situation has likely taken its toll on your mental health.

You May Feel Stress, Anxiety, and Fear

It’s a scary time in the world. During a worldwide pandemic, entire states and countries have shut down. And in some areas, like New York, the death toll sounds like an apocalyptic nightmare. All that’s missing are the zombies.

Add to all that a feeling of isolation as we social distance. The pressure of homeschooling a bored and confused kid. Layoffs, furloughs, and a stock market downturn only increase the burden.

If you’re like me, you’re anxious and maybe a little afraid. And that’s normal and expected. The world, even and especially during shelter-at-home, feels pretty darn overwhelming right now.

According to the CDC, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

While everyone handles stress differently, those at increased risk of COVID-19 (older people and those with chronic diseases), kids, first responders and health care providers, and those with mental health issues might feel this more strongly.

It’s important to take care of yourself and find ways to cope with the stress of the situation. Here are six tips to help you make it through.

Turn off the News

It’s tempting to remain glued to your screens, trying to learn as much as you can about current events. But constant monitoring of news and social media feeds can become counterproductive. There is a limit where it moves from being informed to compulsive and begins fueling your anxiety. Know your limit and before you hit it, turn off the news for a while.

One strategy is to limit how often you look at news coverage, for instance, only thirty minutes at lunch time. Another strategy is to only read one or two articles. Try a few strategies and decide what works for you.

Know the Facts

While there is such a thing as too much information, and our first tip advises you to turn off the news, it is important to know the facts. Ignorance can be much more frightening, especially to children who may not understand what’s going on.

Stick to trustworthy news sources like the CDC and the World Health Organization. And before you believe a random article you saw on Facebook, check the source. If it’s an online news site you’ve never heard of before, what you’ve read may not be valid. Double check the information with a reputable source.

Take Care of Your Body and Mind

Stress takes its toll. Make sure you are caring for yourself both mentally and physically. Get exercise, eat healthy, talk to your loved ones, and get a full-night rest. Many of my friends are treating themselves to home spa days. Another friend cooks a gourmet meal once a week and throws a dinner party for herself and her family. Yet another friend holds virtual happy hour every Wednesday afternoon.

Whatever makes you feel good, make time to do. Taking care of yourself now will help you be ready for the return to normal life—no matter how long that may take.

Connect with Others

This is one of the biggest self-care things you can do to preserve your mental well-being. Isolation isn’t healthy. We are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us needs human contact.

Make use of Zoom, Facetime, texting, and good-old phone calls. We cannot overstate the importance of connecting to other human beings, especially if you live alone.

Establish a (New) Routine

During shelter-at-home/work-from-home, it’s easy to lose track of time. One day blurs into another, as it does during vacations and sick days. Establishing a new routine can help inject normalcy into your life.

It can help to get up at the same time every day and perform your usual morning tasks, including hair and skin care. It’s tempting to jam a hat on your overgrown hair and call it a day, but you might feel better with a little more effort.

Seek Help if You Become Overwhelmed

Above everything else, if you start to feel overwhelmed with the stress of the situation and/or isolation, seek help.

You can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.

You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you’re in Indiana:

  • You can visit the new BeWellIndiana.org site.
  • Call 211 for a free and confidential service to connect you to local resources.
  • Contact the Crisis Text Line 24/7. Text HOME to 741741.

Or, in an emergency, call 911.