During times of infectious disease outbreaks, such as the Coronavirus or COVID-19, you may notice an increased level of stress within yourself or others, which is a normal response to uncertainty, and a sense of loss of control. The increased stress level is particularly noticeable for those who know someone who is ill or has died from the virus. It is important to recognize the signs of increased stress and learn healthy way to manage the stress.
Signs of Stress:
Change in energy and activity levels
Increase in use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs
Trouble relaxing or sleeping
Crying or worrying excessively
Wanting to be alone most of the time
Stomach aches or diarrhea
Headache or other pain
Sweating or having chills
Being easily startled
Change in appetite
Feeling tremors or muscle twitches
Being anxious, fearful or depressed
Not caring about anything
Overwhelmed by sadness
Feeling heroic, euphoric or invulnerable
Trouble concentrating or remembering things
Trouble thinking clearly
Difficulty making decisions
Searching for the words to describe feelings
Difficulty communicating or listening
Once you have identified the stress, it is important to take action to reduce it to a manageable level. This can include the following:
- Keep things in perspective: get information from a trusted source and limit the amount of time you watch TV or read about the outbreak
- Focus on areas of your life that are going well and those things you can control
- Follow a healthy diet, drink water and get enough sleep.
- Remember to also get physical exercise
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often; clean frequently used surfaces such as cell phone, computer and tablets
- Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine; don’t use illegal drugs or tobacco
- Find ways to relax: deep breaths, stretching, meditation, and hobbies all help manage stress
- Enjoy a good meal, reading, listening to music, or talk to family or loved ones about your feelings.
Your past experiences also impact how you think and feel. Draw strength from how you have managed your emotions, thoughts and behavior in the past; many of those same coping skills can help in the present situation. If your stress is reduced you will feel better and able to handle situations as they arise. Your immune system will thank you, too.
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