How to cope with stress during a pandemic

How to cope with stress during a pandemic

What you should know

When you hear, read or watch news about an outbreak of an infectious disease, you may feel anxious and show signs of stress. That anxiety and stress can be even higher for those that work in or have loved ones working in the healthcare field, as their job may require them to be on the ‘front lines’ to help fight and prevent the spread of the disease.

Regardless of your situation, it’s important to keep in mind that these signs of stress are normal. In the wake of an outbreak, like COVID-19, it’s important to take time to monitor your own physical and mental health.

Know the signs of stress

If you’re unsure of the signs of stress in yourself or your loved ones, we’ve provided behavioral, physical, emotional and cognitive responses below that are all common signs of anxiety and stress.

Behavioral signs of stress

Here are some common behavioral responses you may experience:

  • Increase or decrease in your energy and activity levels
  • Rise in your use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs
  • Increased in irritability, with outbursts of anger and frequent arguing
  • Trouble relaxing or sleeping
  • Frequent crying
  • Excessive worrying
  • Wanting to be alone most of the time
  • Blaming other people for everything
  • Difficulty communication or listening
  • Trouble giving or accepting help
  • Inability to feel pleasure or have fun

Your body’s response to stress

In addition to mental and emotional responses, your body reacts to stress in different ways. Here are some things your body may experience in times of stress.

  • Having stomachaches or diarrhea
  • Having headaches and other pains
  • Losing your appetite or eating too much
  • Sweating or having chills
  • Getting tremors or muscle twitches
  • Being easily startled

Range of emotions caused by stress

Its normal to experience a range of emotions in everyday life. However, when you fall into persistent depressing feelings that interfere with your ability to complete daily activities or enjoy your relationships, there may be a more serious issue. Here are some common emotions that can be triggered by stressful situations.

  • Anxiousness or fearfulness
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Feeling heroic, euphoric or invulnerable
  • Not caring about anything
  • Feeling overwhelmed by sadness

Your cognitive functioning

In stressful situations it’s also common to feel like you have limited mental capacity or control. Here are some common signs that you may be mentally struggling with stress in your environment.

  • Having trouble remembering things
  • Feeling confused
  • Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating
  • Having difficulty making decisions

Know when to get help

You may experience serious distress when you hear about an infectious disease outbreak, like COVID-19. If you or someone you know shows any of the signs of stress mentioned above, it’s important to reach out and get help.

Student members in need of assistance are encouraged to utilize our CareConnect service. By calling 1-888-857-5462, students can be immediately connected with a licensed counselor, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) right away if you or someone you know threatens to hurt or kill him or herself; threatens someone else; or talks or writes about death, dying or suicide.

Know how to relieve stress

If you don’t feel you need to reach out for help, you can help manage and alleviate your stress with some of the following strategies.

Keep things in perspective

Set limits on how much time you spend reading or watching news about the outbreak. You’ll want to stay up to date on news of the outbreak, but make sure to take time away from the news to focus on things in your life that are going well and that you can control.

Keep yourself healthy

  • Eat healthy foods and drink water.
  • Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Do not use tobacco or illegal drugs.
  • Get enough sleep and rest.
  • Get physical exercise.

Use practical ways to relax

  • Relax your body often by doing things that work for you—take deep breaths, stretch, meditate, wash your face and hands or engage in pleasurable hobbies.
  • Pace yourself between stressful activities and do a fun thing after a hard task.
  • Use time off to relax—eat a good meal, read, listen to music, take a bath or talk to family.
  • Talk about your feelings to loved ones and friends often.
  • Take care of your physical health to help lower your stress.
  • Take a break to focus on positive parts of your life, like connections with loved ones.

Pay attention to your body

  • Recognize and heed early warning signs of stress.
  • Recognize how your own past experiences affect your way of thinking and feeling about this event and think of how you handled your thoughts, emotions and behavior around past events.
  • Understand that feeling stressed, depressed, guilty or angry is common after an event like an infectious disease outbreak, even when it does not directly threaten you.
  • Connect with others who may be experiencing stress about the outbreak. Talk about your feelings about the outbreak, share reliable health information and enjoy conversation unrelated to the outbreak to remind yourself of the many important and positive things in your lives.
  • Take time to renew your spirit through meditation, prayer, or helping others in need.

Credible sources for Coronavirus COVID-19 information

In times of uncertainty it’s important to be able to get information from a trusted resource. That’s why we’re recommending that student members visit their school’s page on Wellflleetstudent.com, their school’s student health center page and The Centers for Disease Control website for the most up-to-date information on the pandemic.

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