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Managing Stress During a Pandemic

In navigating the evolving situation regarding coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it’s important that people are mindful of their stress levels given all the changes being experienced.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Andrea Cutler, APRN, from HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic shares the below tips to help:

Read News from Trustworthy News Sources
Avoid media outlets that build hype and focus on things that can’t be controlled. Focus on media that gives you accurate and reliable information. Stay informed about the illness but also expose yourself to positive and uplifting media stories.

Set Limits on Your Media Consumption
Avoid having television, radio or other media run continuously in the background. Schedule specific times to check in on the news and set limits on how long you watch or consume news.

Avoid the Herd Mentality
Be mindful of and limit conversation with alarmists or people who are very anxious. Anxiety can be contagious, and it is easy to become alarmed by something after hearing it from someone else. You may not have found it alarming, otherwise. Be mindful that each person’s experience and feelings can be different.

Create Routine and Structure in Your Daily Life
Many of us thrive with routine and predictability. Social distancing measures can change how we move about our community and may temporarily stop some of our routines. Create new routines and work to create a new normal. Set a schedule that incorporates dedicated time for trying new and different activities or doing something you used to enjoy.

  • If you find yourself home without work, create a new routine that ensures exercise, nutrition and enjoyable activities.
  • If you have children suddenly at home, make a schedule for school time, play time and free time.
  • If you are working from home, create a schedule that allows work and play.
  • Search online or social sites such as Pinterest for ideas and sample schedules.

Be flexible with yourself and others. The focus is to do the best we can, not be perfect.

Develop an Action Plan that Works for You and Your Family
Make decisions about what is right for you and your loved ones and focus on what you can control, as opposed to what you can’t control.

Cutler shared, “It is ok to allow for things to be different, and less than perfect. We can instead strive to create a plan and routine that is good enough. Adopting a ‘dare-to-be-average’ mind-set will allow for some personal forgiveness as you and your family navigate changes. Ask yourself, did schoolwork get done? Did work get done? Did you engage in self-care? The answer to these questions should be, ‘Yes, as best as I could today.’”

Engage in Self-Care Activities

  • Ensure you are getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet and getting routine exercise.
  • Take time for hobbies or interests you previously enjoyed but didn’t have time to do.
  • Employ the use of calming, centering and meditative skills. There are a lot of free meditative, and relaxation apps available to walk you through several exercises to help calm and center yourself.

Connect With Others
There are ways that that you can practice social distancing without becoming emotionally distant from others.  To stay connected with others, you can:

  • Send someone a handwritten note.
  • Call, text, or video chat with family and friends and family on a frequent basis.
  • Use various social media platforms to connect with others.

Seek Professional Help When Needed
Cutler said, “If your mental health is being impacted by the stress of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), please reach out to your primary care physician who can help connect you with therapy resources. Many things are changing in the field of mental health and telemedicine or phone visits may be an option.”

Article from HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital