The outbreak of coronavirus has been stressful for many people. Fear and anxiety about oneself and loved ones contracting a disease can be overwhelming and produce strong emotions in both adults and children. Being able to cope with stress better can make individuals, the people they care about, and their community stronger.
Stress that can occur during an infectious disease outbreak may include the following:
- Fear and/or concern about one’s own health and the health of loved ones
- Adverse changes in sleep and/or eating patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
- Exacerbation of chronic health issues
- Worsening of mental health disorders
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, painkillers, or other drugs
It’s important to note that each person reacts differently to stressful circumstances. How one responds to an outbreak will depend on the individual’s background, the things that make him or her different from others, and the community in which one resides.
People who may react more strongly to the stress of this crisis include the following:
- Older individuals and those with serious, chronic diseases who are at heightened risk for experiencing severe illness from COVID-19
- Children and teenagers
- People assisting with the response to COVID-19, such as doctors, nurses, other health care professionals, and first responders
- People who suffer from mental health conditions including issues with substance abuse
Ways to Deal with Stress
Taking care of oneself, friends and family can help individuals cope with stress. Assisting others to deal with their concerns can also make the community more empowered. Tips for helping with the matter include the following:
- Take breaks from reading, watching, or listening to the news, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic constantly can be stressful
- Take care of your body, mind, and spirit
- Take deep breaths, meditate, and stretch
- Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Avoid the use of alcohol and drugs
- Take time to unwind and engage in enjoyable activities
- Connect with others and discuss your concerns and feelings
Attend to Mental Health Issues
Call your healthcare provider if stress distracts from your daily activities for a prolonged period. People with pre-existing mental health disorders should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms and take them seriously.
What Parents Can Do
Children and teenagers typically react in similar ways as the adults they have around them. When parents deal with COVID-19 calmly and positively, they provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to those around them, especially children, if they are prepared.
Watch for Behavioral Changes
Not all children and teenagers react to stress in the same way. However, common changes to watch for include the following:
- Excessive crying or irritability in younger children
- Returning to behaviors that a child has outgrown (e.g., toileting accidents)
- Excessive anxiety or depression
- Unhealthy eating habits or sleeping patterns
- Irritability and conduct behavior problems in teens
- Poor academic performance
- Problems with attention and concentration
- Avoidance of activities previously enjoyed in the past
- Unexplained headaches or body aches and pain
- Use of alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs
Ways to Support Children
- Talk with your children about the coronavirus outbreak and its far-reaching effects
- Answer questions and share facts about coronavirus in a way that your children can understand
- Reassure your children that they are safe. Let them know it is normal to feel upset and share ways in which you deal with your own anxiety and stress so that they can better learn how to cope
- Limit your family’s exposure to news regarding COVID-19, including social media. Children may misunderstand what they hear and can be alarmed about something they don’t fully understand
- Try to stick to regular routines. If schools are closed, devise a schedule for learning activities or those that are relaxing or enjoyable
- Be a role model—take breaks, get adequate sleep, eat properly, and exercise. Stay in close connection with friends and family members
For Those at a High Risk of COVID-19 Complications
People at higher risk for severe health complications, such as older individuals and people with co-occurring health disorders, are also at increased risk of stress due to the coronavirus. Special considerations include the following:
- Older adults and those with disabilities are at increased risk of having mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression.
- Mental health issues can manifest as physical complaints (e.g., headaches) or cognitive difficulties.
- Medical health providers may be more likely to miss mental health issues among those with disabilities. This is due to a focus on treating other underlying health problems, compared to individuals without disabilities.
- Older adults because depression can be overlooked and assumed to be a normal part of aging.
Support Your Loved Ones
Check in with your loved ones frequently. Virtual communication (such as social media) can help you and your loved ones feel less isolated and alone. Consider connecting with loved ones by:
- U.S. mail
- Text messages
- Video chat
- Social media
Help Keep Loved Ones Safe
Know what medications (if any) your loved one is taking. Try to help them have a month supply of prescription and over the counter medicines, and try to ensure that they have extra on hand in case they need it.
Monitor other medical equipment and supplies (e.g., oxygen, dialysis, and wound care) that are needed and devise a back-up plan.
Stock up on non-perishable food (canned goods, dried beans, pasta, etc.) to have on hand in the home to minimize trips to grocery stores.
If you have a loved one residing in a care facility, monitor the situation, and speak with facility administrators or staff over the phone. Ask about the health and well-being of the other residents and know what procedures are in place if someone is exposed to COVID-19.
Stay home if you are sick. Do not visit friends or family or who are at a heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Use virtual communication to stay in touch to support your loved one and ensure they are safe.
Know When to Seek Help
If you or someone you care about is feeling overwhelmed with sadness, depression, or anxiety, or believe that you (or someone you love) want to engage in self-harm or harm toward others, please call 911 immediately.
For less urgent matters, lean on therapists and counselors that you can engage within a virtual environment and provide guidance and support for yourself or others who are under significant stress.
Getting Help for Addiction
If you or someone you love is experiencing an increase in substance abuse or a new/worsening issue with drug or alcohol use, we urge you to contact us today to learn about our treatment programs. Just Believe Recovery screens all incoming residents for health concerns, including COVID-19. We are dedicated to helping those who need it most—even during this trying time—to break free from substance abuse and foster the happy and fulfilling lives they deserve! Take your first steps to recovery today!