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Managing Stress and Anxiety During Isolation & Social Distancing

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April 8, 2020 | Published by


With what is currently happening in the world, it’s impossible not to see the massive changes our lives have undergone in such a short period of time. These changes, especially when it involves social distancing, isolation, and even quarantine are hard for everyone, and can often come with extra stress. While a certain amount of anxiety is normal, it’s important remain as reasonable and optimistic as possible during these difficult times.1

The understandable stress that comes with these sorts of considerable life changes affects everyone differently. However, there are many people who may have a more powerful reaction to moments of crisis, including2:

Older people

Adults over the age of 65 are at a higher risk for severe illnesses that can be caused by viruses3.

Individuals with chronic diseases

People of all ages can suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Since our body’s organs all work together to help fight off infections, having additional stress on one of our body’s systems can cause other parts to struggle more as well4.

Children and teens

The loss of a standard routine can greatly affect the stress levels of younger people, possibly causing them to react by being more anxious, withdrawing, angry, or agitated5. This loss of routine, as well as the loss of social stimulation, can be especially difficult on teens who may act out in ways that can be challenging for families already under additional stress6.

People with mental health conditions including issues with substance abuse

Quarantine can be especially dangerous for people that suffer from substance use disorder, gambling addiction, or internet gaming disorder. The isolation from others, including individuals within their help network, in addition to the loss of a standard routine can often lead to relapse for those who had previously been doing well7.

How to identify mental health concerns

As the CDC suggests, people should keep an eye open for signs of distressed mental health in themselves as well as in others. Symptoms may include8:

  • Fear and concern regarding your own health
  • Changes in eating or sleep patterns
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs
  • Exacerbated chronic health problems

Tips to help you cope9

Keep your routines

One of the most difficult aspects of quarantine can be the disruption of your typical daily routines, which can make you feel directionless as you cope with trying to fill all the hours of the day.

A common routine people base their life around is going into work. While it can be difficult, especially if you have children home as well, it can be advantageous to structure your day more like a workday if you’re now working from home. Take breaks, lunch, and stick to your normal work functions as much as possible.

Get active!

Periods of inactivity can affect you both mentally as well as physically. And while it may not be possible to hit the gym there are plenty of at-home workouts you can do while stuck inside.

An added benefit to exercising is that it actually boosts your immunity! And since exercise can also help boost your mood, it’s really a must-do activity during these times of heightened stress.

Don’t let boredom overtake you

One of the biggest stressors that comes with isolation and social distancing can be experiencing boredom. It’s important to find ways to stay occupied, so do your best to preserve as many of your standard routines as possible. Fortunately, if you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, this can be an opportunity to try a myriad of new things! Gardening, Painting, and creating music are just a few examples of new hobbies you can try if you find yourself getting bored.

Communicate with others

For many, social distancing can bring the greatest amount of stress. If you’re a social butterfly, be sure to maintain contact with people. Texting or calling friends and family, making use of social media, or even joining online message boards for other individuals suffering from the effects of isolation are fantastic ways to remind yourself you’re not alone out there.

Stay posted, but not overwhelmed

Constantly being immersed in our 24/7 news cycle can lead to us consuming news that can be negative or even factually inaccurate. Accessing sources such as national, state and local health departments can provide you with the news you need without overwhelming you with bleak or superfluous information.

Keep in mind that kids are stressed, too

Studies show that children that have experienced quarantine are four times more likely to show signs of PTSD over children that have not. It’s important that adults speak to children about the current world events, but be sure it’s done in a way that’s reassuring, age appropriate, and informative. Since adult’s behavior can have a significant impact on the children around them, it’s critical to manage your own stress and anxiety while dealing with uncertain times.

Recognize why you’re doing this

Stress and frustration will inevitably stem from being isolated from others as well as your usual activities, but try to keep in mind the positive impact you are having on the world. Knowing that your actions are pivotal in eventually getting us through these uncertain times can often help allay some of the stress and anxiety you may be experiencing.

References:

  1. Fernstrom, M. 5 ways to curb coronavirus-related stress and anxiety. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/know-your-value/feature/5-ways-curb-coronavirus-related-stress-anxiety-ncna1163371
  2. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Daily Life & Coping. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fprepare%2Fmanaging-stress-anxiety.html
  3. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) People Who Need Extra Precautions. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/older-adults.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fspecific-groups%2Fhigh-risk-complications%2Folder-adults.html
  4. Nania, R. How Chronic Conditions Complicate Coronavirus Infections. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/chronic-conditions-coronavirus.html
  5. Helping children cope with stress during the 2019-nCoV outbreak. WHO. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/helping-children-cope-with-stress-print.pdf?sfvrsn=f3a063ff_2
  6. UW PEDIATRICIAN: HOW TO HELP YOUR TEENAGER MANAGE STRESS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC. Department of Pediatrics. https://www.pediatrics.wisc.edu/uw-pediatrician-how-to-help-your-teenager-manage-stress-during-covid-19-pandemic/
  7. Bonenberger, A. In isolation, worries and stress are magnified. Medical Xpress. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-03-isolation-stress-magnified.html
  8. K. Psychology experts share their tips for safeguarding your mental health during quarantine. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/20/coronavirus-tips-for-protecting-your-mental-health-during-quarantine.html
  9. Cherry, K. How to Cope With Quarantine. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/protect-your-mental-health-during-quarantine-4799766

 


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