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Tips for Managing Coronavirus-Causing Stress

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is weighing heavy on the minds of Americans. In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 77% of people say their lives have been “disrupted” by the virus. Nearly just as many people (70%) say they feel personal stress caused by COVID-19 and are worried they or their immediate family members may fall sick.

When you consider how life has changed in the average American home, it’s easy to see why more than three-fourths of people are stressed over this disease. To curb your stress about contracting the virus, follow all preventative guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep your family healthy.

Minimize Coronavirus Stress

The CDC identifies four groups of people who “may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis” like coronavirus:

  • Children and teens
  • Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19
  • People with mental health conditions including problems with substance abuse
  • People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors, nurses and other health care providers, or first responders

As you work to create a new normal for the foreseeable future, there are some basic steps you can take to disconnect from the stress caused by the coronavirus.

Local Perspective

In a recent interview with The Sun News, Dr. Gerald Harmon, Vice President of medical affairs at Tidelands Health says our mental health must be a top priority as the stressors of this crisis begin to hit closer to home.

“Don’t socially isolate yourself to the point of not talking to your support group,” said Dr. Harmon in The Sun News interview. It’s important to stay connected to your friends and loved ones, therapists and counselors. There’s also great benefit in getting some fresh air. Dr. Harmon recommends that feeling stressed should “go out and walk and exercise, just don’t go to large social functions.”

While the Coastal Samaritan Counseling Center has closed its physical office to protect patients and employees, video therapy is available. Executive Director Philip Keilen spoke to The Sun News on activities you can participate in to relieve coronavirus stress, including:

  • Draw
  • Engage in physical activity
  • Garden
  • Journal
  • Listen to music
  • Meditate
  • Take a walk
  • Volunteer with a religious or charitable organization

Taking a break from working from home or helping your child complete eLearning tasks will help you maintain a feeling of hope and accomplishment, suggests Keilen.

De-stressing Activities

In a recent Harvard Health Blog, Dr. John Sharp shared some coping skills. 

Dr. Sharp recommends taking a moment to identify when you’re experiencing anxiety by recognizing changes in your body. For some, anxiety and worry can spark insomnia, moments of short breath, headaches and unexpected mood shifts. Even if you feel you’re not stressed, pay attention to your body. Unconscious habits may reveal your stress level is higher than you think.

Whether you fall into one of the four groups identified by the CDC or not, you can practice daily steps to reduce your stress and fear sparked by coronavirus. Dr. Sharp suggests:

  • Staying social: Use FaceTime and other video apps to connect with friends and family. While social distancing limits our physical exchange with people, phone calls, texting and video chats can keep us connected.
  • Stick with the facts: There’s an abundance of information about coronavirus circulating the Internet, but not all of it is true. Be sure the sources you use are from credible medical organizations, like the CDC, World Health Organization, or Harvard Medical School.
  • Read: Break away from the stress of the real world by diving into a novel. Reading can hold your attention, give you time to relax your body and ease your worried mind.

The CDC adds that eating fresh foods, like fruit and vegetables, provides your body with necessary nutrients to maintain a strong immune system and keep your body working at its best. Taking walks around your neighborhood, while practicing social distancing, can give you a break from being indoors.

There are daily habits we can all practice to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. During our national health crisis, it’s just as important to keep your mind healthy as it is to protect your body. Take time each day to decompress and consider the positive aspects of your circumstances.