Many have wondered if feeling stress or anxiety during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is normal. Living through a pandemic is stressful and it is normal to experience some anxiety and worry (SAMHSA, 2014). It is also common for family, friends and coworkers of high-risk individuals to feel increasingly on edge. High-risk individuals include those who have been quarantined, have tested positive, are elderly, have a chronic medical condition, those who suffer from anxiety, and those with increased risk due to occupational exposure. Those who are on the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 virus are also dealing with increased pressure, stress, and risks.
It is important to recognize that everyone reacts differently. Reactions will vary from going about normal routines to those who experience persistent anxiety, worry or fear and could include emotional, behavioural and physical reactions. If these interfere with daily functioning you are encouraged to contact a mental health provider. Reactions could include:
- Worrying about your health and those of your loved ones;
- Change in sleeping patterns;
- Changes in appetite;
- Difficulty concentrating because of persistent worry;
- Worsening of other chronic health problems;
- Increased use of substances to help you relax (alcohol, tobacco, drugs or food); and
- Needing continual reassurance from family, friends and doctors
Positive coping mechanisms are essential to help get individuals through this experience. Five strategies that can help offset the effects felt include:
- Check-in with yourself and others regularly to identify and acknowledge stress responses felt. Watch for increased irritability, abnormal tiredness, changes in appetite, a withdrawal from friends and family, increased anger and edginess;
- Maintain a plan to stay healthy that includes a healthy diet, exercise, and connecting with family and friends in safe ways;
- Stay connected to the outside world. Be creative and find ways to interact with others. Phone calls, online platforms and taking a walk while maintaining safe distances are strongly encouraged;
- Expect the stress and actively manage it. Pay attention to how you are responding, take advantage of personal tools, partners and organizational options to take breaks and manage stress levels; and
- Be proactive about your mental health. Don’t wait until things are really bad to seek out help as it becomes more challenging to deal with when issues have had time to fester (Halmasy, 2020).
These are unprecedented times and practicing effective coping strategies is essential. Increased stress is common and should be expected but by being consistent with self-examination and self-care the effects can be offset dramatically.
What are other tips we could talk about? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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Alyssa. (2018). The Importance of talking about Mental Health. Image retrieved from https://banyanmentalhealth.com/2018/08/01/why-talking-about-mental-health-is-so-important
Hamilton Health Sciences. (2019). Mental health in children and youth-A patient’s story. Image retrieved from https://www.hamiltonhealthsciences.ca/share/child-and-youth-mental-health-patient-story/