Prevention & Wellness in the Time of COVID: Managing Stress in a Pandemic

Let’s face it, dealing with a pandemic can be stressful!


There is a lot to be said in regards to the year of 2020 & the blight it has brought upon the world.


But today we’re honing in on the effect the pandemic has had on your mental health - specifically that of STRESS.

Whether you have been directly or indirectly impacted by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) you are still navigating the response of a world expressed through fear, anxiety, confusion, & stress. We’ll dive into some of the ways you may be feeling stress or the reasons behind that stress, but more importantly - practical ways in which you can mitigate, manage, & diminish those stress levels to experience more balanced wellness in your life!


Let’s start by saying that we have more understanding of this disease now than before & there are plenty of us who feel confident returning out into the world with proper precautions in place.


However, the pandemic & disease is still a current issue, so if you are still nervous about entering back into the world - know that you’re not alone!


The CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention) states that “Fear & anxiety about a new disease & what could happen can be overwhelming & cause strong emotions in adults & children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated & lonely & can increase stress and anxiety.”


You could be experiencing any of the following:

  • Fear from contracting the disease

  • Anxiety about spreading the disease

  • Worry from news outlets sharing discouraging statistics or information

  • Loneliness from self-isolating at home

  • Isolation from others when going out because of physical distancing or having to wear a mask

  • Lack of sleep due to any of the above stressors

  • Increased use of harmful substances such as drugs or alcohol


All of these experiences & feelings are normal in relation to such an upheaval in our way of life. You are not alone in these feelings or these experiences, & I want you to know that there are ways out of these compromised places.


I’d like to take a moment here to say there are many resources available to you if you are experiencing extreme mental health concerns or concerns for your safety. Please seek out medical advice or help from a licensed professional.


There are resources at the end of this article pulled directly from the CDC website so you can find the help you need.

Now, if you are at a more manageable place in your stress levels, but still experiencing some undesirable effects such as poor sleep quality, breakouts, mood swings, sugar cravings, long bouts of social media or TV watching, or other unhealthy habits that may have surfaced in the past six months… then we have some tips to help you overcome these mental obstacles.


When working towards a shift or change it’s important to start by assessing where you are now. Even if it feels daunting or challenging to take a realistic picture of your current state, it’s critical for any change you are working to make in the coming months.


Step One: Assess

Take some time to write down where you are now using these guided prompts:

  • What are some negative feelings or emotions (i.e. stress, anxiety, frustration, disappointment) that regularly come up for you?

  • What are you doing when these feelings arise?

  • Are there any common “triggers” for these feelings? (i.e. activities, words, music, people)


After the assessment you will typically see some patterns or links between what you are choosing to do in the day or be exposed to & how that environment is affecting your emotions. When you have some strong ties & feel confident that you know of at least one choice in your life that is directly related to your negative emotions, then it’s time to move onto the next step.


Step Two: Clearly Define

In reviewing your cause (choice or activity) & effect (unwanted feeling), write down a clear statement of how that experience plays out in your life. Be as specific or descriptive as you would like.

  • Use this template: When I __________________ (cause), I feel _________________ (effect).

  • For example, When I watch the news, I feel sadness & anger rising up inside me.


Once you have the emotions clearly defined, you can make a plan for managing that experience. Some choices & actions can be changed somewhat easily, while others are tougher to omit. So if you are able to omit a particular activity, that would be a great place to start. Otherwise, you have to consider how you can manage that activity or experience in a way that can transform the way you feel about a situation.


Step Three: Transform the Issue

Decide whether you can completely omit the activity or not.


If so, write out a plan of how you can go without performing that activity or be exposed to that experience.

  • I will not go on my phone first thing in the morning.

  • I will avoid turning on the news when I get home from work.

  • I will not engage in political conversation with my family members.

If not, write out a plan of how you can minimize the time you spend in that activity.


In addition, write out how you can think a little differently about the experience. In that, your emotions are meant to be felt, but they don’t have to control you. If you are exposed to the activity or experience know that you can feel the negative emotion, but turn your thoughts to more positive ones in order to overcome the spiral or defeatist ideas that can come along after the initial thoughts.

  • I can get on my phone to use social media, but I will set a 15 minute timer to get off.

  • When I turn on the TV, I will watch a segment of news & then turn to a comedic show.

  • As I converse with my family, I will listen to what they feel they need to say & then try to contribute only positive affirmations of the topic at hand.


Oftentimes these tactics can help you become more aware in the moment & start to regulate the way you feel or perceive a particular situation. When your body responds to certain emotions with a stress response, it’s typically a physiological overreaction that can be managed. It’s okay to have negative emotions arise, but it’s not okay to let them overwhelm you. Which brings us to the last step & probably the most important one.


We can navigate certain situations or circumstances, but it’s important to take steps overall that contribute to your ability to stay calm, balanced & overall satisfied with your life.


Step Four: Damage Control

Find activities that help you to find peace, calm & contentment in order to practice being in this state of being.

  • Start a yoga practice - even 10 minutes of stretching a day can improve your overall wellness

  • Take up meditation - start with a short 5 minute guided practice that you can do walking or folding the laundry

  • Keep your phone on airplane mode at night

  • Don’t get on your phone first thing in the morning

  • Create a morning routine - set yourself up for a easeful day ahead

  • Pet your animals more if you have them - their indifference of the state of the world & the reduction of stress hormones is palpable in being with them

  • Spend more time outdoors - feeling & breathing in nature grounds you back down to what is important

  • Get off screens 1-2 hour before bedtime

Create habits that enable you to better approach each activity or experience from Step One with more calm.

All-in-all, we cannot control what happens on a global scale.


We are in a pandemic, with currently no end in sight. It’s important to find a way of life that fits in with the political turmoil, social uprisings & fear mongering that is a huge part of the media right now.


Determine the tactics that you best feel speak to you, start with one at a time & implement until they become a lifestyle - not just a task on your to-do list.


And if you need any help along the way, we’re always right here to support you. Book a consultation today & we can help you manage the stressors of the world to create the vibrant, thriving lifestyle your desire independent of your external circumstances.


Be well.


RESOURCES

Get immediate help in a crisis, pulled directly from the CDC Website:

Find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health

Subscribe for Motivation & Accountability

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