Almost every person in life experiences certain situations that cause them stress. There is something known as eustress, which is positive stress, that makes you finish things faster. And it is completely fine to feel stressed out once in a while. But, when you experience stress more often, to the point that it has become chronic or persistent, the negative stress (known as distress) can affect your health badly.
Take a moment to think whether you are suffering from any of the following psychological and emotional signs and symptoms of stress:
- Anger or feeling short-tempered
- Irritability or agitation
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Lacking in motivation
- Feeling down
- Feeling tired
- Inability to focus or stay focussed
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Racing thoughts or constant worry
- Problems with your memory
- Problems in taking the right decisions
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation (common during COVID-19)
How to cope with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 outbreak has certainly likely brought many changes in your daily routines and your professional life. Many of you are worried about the financial pressures and some must be feeling lonely due to social isolation.
A self-report survey was conducted on 3304 participants in the US and Canada over the internet between March 21 and April 1, 2020. The survey found that the COVID-19 pandemic is making people:
- Fear of dangerousness of COVID-19
- Fear of coming into contact with the objects (fomites) that are contaminated with the virus
- Constant worry about personal finances and disruption in the supply chain
- Get frequent nightmares, intrusive thoughts, or images related to COVID-19
Thinking repeatedly about these things during the COVID-19 pandemic can make you anxious, fearful, and sad. Here are a few tips to keep yourself calm during any kind of stress, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak:
- Stay physically active. Whether you hit the gym or do your workout at home, it is always helpful to keep moving to improve your mood.
- Take a walk: Get outside in an area and walk while wearing a mask and maintaining a safe distance from people— as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) or your government. This can be a nature trail or in your backyard.
- Get adequate sleep. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep daily.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Choose unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead of over-processed foods. The food you eat may affect the way you think about a stressful situation.
- Limit exposure to media. Constant news about COVID-19 from channels such as the press and social media can make you fearful and anxious. Look for credible sources such as the CDC and WHO.
- Avoid smoking, drinking, and taking recreational drugs. Smoking is already known for being a risk factor for lung disease. Alcohol and drugs can make coping with stress more difficult.
- Limit your screen time. Make sure to not overdo entertaining activities such as watching TV or being on your smartphone for prolonged hours. This can indirectly contribute to stress.
- Relax and re-energize yourself. Take out some time for yourself and try staying quiet for some time, imagine peaceful or serene places, meditate or do yoga. Any activity that unwinds you will do.
- Stay connected. Reach out to people close to you such as your family and friends when the stress is driving you nuts. You can connect with them over the phone, email, social media, or chatting apps.
If you are unable to deal with the stress by yourself, do not hesitate to seek help from a professional mental health therapist.
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Taylor S, et al. COVID stress syndrome: Concept, structure, and correlates. Depression and anxiety. 2020 Aug;37(8):706-14.