How to manage your stress about novel coronavirus

For many, the COVID-19 outbreak is a source of great fear and anxiety. So, in addition to caring for your physical welfare, it’s also important to learn how to manage and care for your mental and emotional well-being during these trying times.

Stress can negatively affect your health

You may find that you’re having trouble sleeping or eating. Or maybe, you’re unable to concentrate on work. Stress affects people different ways. Among others, here are a few ways that stress can negatively affect your health. It can cause:

  • Worsening chronic health problems
  • Feelings to self-medicate by using drugs, alcohol or other substances
  • Fear and anxiety about your or your family’s safety
  • Changes in your sleeping or eating patterns
  • A tendancy to lash out or withdraw from others

It’s also important to remember that although you may not be worried about COVID-19, there are others who are. Those most susceptible to stress include:

  • Older people
  • Those with diseases or illnesses that could make them more susceptible to COVID-19
  • Children and teens who may become anxious about all the social and school changes due to the novel coronavirus in our community
  • Doctors, nurses, first-responders and emergency personnel who are on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Those who suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues
  • Those who suffer from drug or alcohol abuse problems

If you or someone you know is more susceptible to mental stress or anxiety about COVID-19, make sure to get help. Reach out to a friend, neighbor or family member to discuss your fears. You can also call the Disaster Distress Helpline to speak with a crisis counselor. If it’s an emergency, seek help from your healthcare provider immediately.

Signs of stress in teenagers and children

As mentioned above, not everyone deals with stress in the same way. Children and teenagers are especially susceptible to anxiety and fear. Learn the signs and symptoms of stress in children and seek help if needed.

In teenagers and children, some changes you’ll want to be on the lookout for include:

  • Excessive crying
  • Regression in their behavior or habits that they had previously outgrown (bedwetting, thumb-sucking, etc.)
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Acting out
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Irrational behavior or anger

You can support your child and teenager in many different ways including:

  • Take the time to talk with your child about COVID-19
  • Reassure your child that they’ re safe and that you’re taking precautions to protect your family from the novel coronavirus
  • Limit your child’s exposure to media
  • Keep a regular routine including schoolwork, outside play time, etc.
  • Make sure your child is getting plenty of sleep, exercise and a good healthy diet

How to cope with the stress of COVID-19

To combat the added stress and anxiety that has come with the novel coronavirus outbreak, it’s important that you take the time and find ways to relax so that you can cope with all that you may be feeling.

Dr. Robert Sanders, medical director of Pedi Express urgent care at University Health System, said families eating together – without the TV – is a good way to check in on how everyone is doing.

“Consider playing an ‘old fashioned’ board game like Monopoly, Game of Life or Jenga to break up some of the monotony and laugh and get your minds off things,” Dr. Sanders said.

“And support each other,” he said. “Use technology to get in touch with friends!”

One way most people like to unwind and relax is to visit with friends and family. However, remember that in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, it’s imperative that you limit your interactions with others by practicing good social distancing techniques. Instead, chat with friends or relatives over the phone, FaceTime or Skype. This will ensure you don’t put others at risk of the virus while still getting the social interaction you need. Other ways you can unwind include:

  • Take breaks from media – constantly hearing about the novel coronavirus can be upsetting
  • Make sure to get good rest, exercise and eat healthy every day
  • Consider doing yoga or meditation to relax
  • Find the time to read a good book, or listen to some music
  • Try out new recipes
  • Have a family game or movie night

And remember, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or are having trouble coping with all the added stress, make sure to talk with a counselor or friend. If it’s an emergency, seek immediate help from your healthcare provider.

University Health System, in partnership with UT Health San Antonio, is a dedicated academic medical center that offers patients cutting-edge treatments based on the most current research in a safe environment. For more information about COVID-19, visit CDC.gov or universityhealthsystem.com/COVID19.