Managing Stress During the Pandemic

Young woman stressed from the pandemic

What is stress?

The National Institute of Health defines stress as “the brain’s response to any demand.” Stress may cause feelings of emotional strain and pressure. How harmful stress will be to an individual ultimately depends on its intensity, duration, and treatment.

Pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people. Stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have contributed to increases in the prevalence of reports of symptoms of anxiety disorder. According to the CDC reports symptoms like adverse mental health conditions, substance use, and suicidal tendencies have increased from 8.1% in the second quarter or 2019 to 25.5% in the second quarter of 2020.

Anxiety about the pandemic and fears about our health and that of our loved ones, our financial situation, and loss of access to necessary support services can have an overwhelming effect. These fears have become the reality of many.

Persons can find support from their loved ones and social circles. However, public health best practices, such as stay-at-home orders and social distancing, lead to loneliness, which increases stress and anxiety. Healthily coping with stress will make us, the people we care about, and our community stronger.

Take care of yourself and your community

Ensure you take care of yourself, as doing so will give you the endurance to care for others, which is a great stress reliever. Social support can be invaluable to those who need assistance, and helping others cope with their stress will improve our communities socially. Despite maintaining physical distancing, we can maintain social connections and care for our mental health. Phone calls or video chats can help us connect with loved ones and prevent us from feeling isolated.

Healthy ways to cope with stress

  • Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19. Contact a health professional before you start any self-treatment for COVID-19.
  • Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
  • Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
  • Take breaks from all forms of media updates about the pandemic. Repeated exposure to these stories can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
    • Stretch, or meditate
    • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
    • Exercise
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Avoid substance abuse.
  • Make time to unwind and do activities you enjoy.
  • Communicate with people you trust and share concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Engage your community and faith-based organizations online, through social media, or by phone or mail.
  • Love, care for, and protect yourself!

References

Bernstein, R (2016) The Mind and Mental Health: How Stress Affects the Brain. Retrieved 10/07/2020, from https://www.tuw.edu/health/how-stress-affects-the-brain/#:~:text=Chronic%20stress%20has%20a%20shrinking,brain%20more%20receptive%20to%20stress.

Cdc.gov. (2020) Coping with Stress. Retrieved 10/07/2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

Cziesler, M et al. (2020)  Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. Retrieved 10/07/2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm