During this time of social distancing and isolation to help slow the spread of COVID-19, your social media feed most likely looks a little different. Some friends may be enjoying time outdoors, baking, or playing with their kids. Others could be displaying a lot of stress over the situation. Knowing what to feel can be confusing. One thing is for sure – if you’re feeling anxious, you’re not alone.
“Extremely uncertain times like we’re experiencing right now are bound to heighten our stress and anxiety. We’re human. However, what can exacerbate this distress is when we begin expending significant energy being ‘anxious about being anxious’,” said Brendon Comer, behavioral health therapist at Banner Health Clinic in Colorado. “Practicing self-compassion and offering kindness and understanding to this increased discomfort may offer the opportunity to open up space for a calmer, gentler energy amid our inevitable worry. We can’t, nor are we expected to, be perfect.”
Recognize the Signs
We’re all trying to figure out how to navigate a new normal with COVID-19. With this comes new feelings, but how do you know if you should be concerned about these feelings? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress and anxiety around COVID-19 may include:
- Changes in your eating habits
- Difficulty sleeping or a shift in your sleep pattern
- A strong sense of fear about your health or the health of your loved ones
- Having trouble focusing or concentrating
- An increase in your use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
- Your chronic health problems getting worse
If you recognize any of these symptoms, your next step is to take action and find ways to improve your mental health.
Tools and Techniques to Feel Better
You’re not alone in your stress and anxiety. Because we’re all experiencing a similar situation, there are many tools available to help you deal with coronavirus stress while you are socially isolated.
- Meditate: Meditation has long been used to increase relaxation and calmness. There are lots of meditation apps you can choose from that easily download onto your phone or tablet. Just search your app store.
- Exercise your brain: It’s not healthy to be constantly focused on what’s happening with COVID-19 while you are social distancing. Consider trying activities that stimulate your brain and take your mind off the coronavirus, like crosswords, Sudoku or working on a puzzle.
- Practice yoga or tai chi: The ancient practices of yoga and tai chi have both been shown to improve mental and physical health. Whether it’s your first time or you are looking for new inspiration, there are plenty of apps, websites and online videos to help guide you through your practice.
- Stay connected, virtually: Maintaining connections with friends and family is critical to boosting your mental health. Although you can’t connect in person, there are wonderful ways to stay connected virtually. Software and apps like Zoom, What’s App or Google Hangout allow groups of people to visit through video - the perfect way to stay socially connected while social distancing.
We are amid unprecedented circumstances as all of us are experiencing hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute changes, fears and uncertainties. “Many of us are being asked to work from home and are having to balance two obligations simultaneously – working from home while also parenting or caregiving at the same time. In addition, front-line workers are experiencing the illness, fears and stress of patients while also worrying about their own health,” said Comer. “Building in time each day to take care of our bodies and minds can go a long way in managing these multiple coronavirus-related stressors, increasing our chances of staying well.”
For more information on COVID-19 and how you can stay well, visit BannerHealth.com.
For more advice on how to manage your mental health during this uncertain time consult an expert, schedule an appointment with a Banner Health behavioral health provider.
If you are in urgent need of mental health assistance, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, offers a Disaster Distress Helpline, 24/7, 365-days-a-year: 1-800-985-5990.