Pandemics can be stressful
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
Take care of yourself and your community
Taking care of your friends and your family can be a stress reliever, but it should be balanced with care for yourself. Helping others cope with their stress, such as by providing social support, can also make your community stronger. During times of increased social distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health. Phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel socially connected, less lonely, or isolated.
Healthy ways to cope with stress:
- Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
- Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
- Connect with your community or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.
Know the facts to help reduce stress:
Knowing the facts about COVI-19 and stopping the spread of rumors can help reduce stress and stigma. Understanding the risk to yourself and people you care about can help you connect with others and make an outbreak less stressful.
Take care of your mental health:
Mental health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel and act. It may also affect how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices during an emergency.
People with pre-existing mental health conditions or substance use disorders may be particularly vulnerable in an emergency. Mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia) affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior in a way that influences their ability to relate to others and function each day. These conditions may be situational (short-term) or long-lasting (chronic). People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. If you think you have new or worse symptoms, call your healthcare provider.
Different life experiences affect a person’s risk for suicide. For example, suicide risk is higher among people who have experienced violence, including child abuse, bullying, or sexual violence. Feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and other emotional or financial stresses are known to raise the risk for suicide. People may be more likely to experience these feelings during a crisis like a pandemic.
However, there are ways to protect against suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For example, support from family and community, or feeling connected, and having access to in-person or virtual counseling or therapy can help with suicidal thoughts and behavior, particularly during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recovering from COVID-19 or ending home isolation:
It can be stressful to be separated from others if you have or were exposed to COVID-19. Each person ending a period of home isolation may feel differently about it.
Emotional reactions may include:
- Mixed emotions, including relief.
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
- Stress from the experience of having COVID-19 and monitoring yourself, or being monitored by others.
- Sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones have fears of getting the disease from you, even though you are cleared to be around others.
- Guilt about not being able to perform normal work or parenting duties while you had COVID-19.
- Worry about getting re-infected or sick again even though you’ve already had COVID-19.
- Other emotional or mental health changes.
Children may also feel upset or have other strong emotions if they, or someone they know, has COVID-19, even if they are now better and able to be around others again.
Tips on how to assist someone who might need you.
- Treat the person with respect and dignity. Listen without judgement and offer words of encouragement.
- Offer consistent emotional support and understanding. Be empathetic, compassionate and patient.
- Have realistic expectations. Do not expect an individual to just, “snap out of it.” Realize that the feelings of anxiety that they are feeling are very real.
- Give the person hope. Remind your loved one that with time they will feel better and that there is hope for a more positive future.
- Provide practical help. Offer help with overwhelming tasks, but be careful not to take over or encourage dependency.
- Offer information. Provide information and resources for additional support, including self-help strategies and professional help.
If you or someone you care about is feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety please feel free to reach-out to the Violence Against Women (VAWA) program at the following phone numbers:
Lola Ahidley, Director (575) 937-0603
Lucy Rodridguez, Counselor (575) 464-0079
Keriana Barcus, Victims Advocate (575) 937-7709